“The relationships Michelle created with Club parents were built on a foundation of compassion, great intention, and integrity.” — Gina Centrella, Kraft Family Executive Director of Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club
As Michelle Perez Vichot moves on after over 20 years at Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, colleague and mentee Gina Centrella reflects on their decades working together.
I am so honored to write this tribute to my friend, coworker, and mentor Michelle Perez Vichot. She is the type of person whose goodness resonates with you, whose leadership inspires you, and whose presence is so positively impactful.
Michelle was Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club’s first Social Worker and first Director of Operations. She went on to become Jordan Club’s Executive Director and eventually Executive Vice President of Operations for all of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston (BGCB). She dedicated so much of her time and worked hard to ensure we delivered the best programs we could for our members in Chelsea and Boston. Anyone who had the opportunity to work with her knows she is a quiet, passionate leader who instils in those around her a true belief in themselves. Michelle is always willing to lend guidance, support, and time to anyone that needs her, and does so without any expectation of reciprocity.
Michelle and I started working together at the Club 22 year ago when she was the Director of Operations and Summer Camp Director. At that time she was working alongside former Nicholas President and CEO Josh Kraft to offer afterschool and summer programming. Shared space programming can be challenging, but Michelle worked diligently to create a welcoming environment that fostered a sense of belonging and pride in the members that participated. Through her relationships with Chelsea Public School’s faculty and the community, she was able to share the organization’s mission which allowed them to understand and appreciate our presence in the city.
In 2002, the Jordan Club opened on Willow Street, and Michelle was tasked with recruiting members, developing program offerings, establishing a transportation program, and hiring caring staff who understood the importance of building meaningful relationships with members and families—one of the elements of youth work that Michelle values most. The relationships she created with Club parents were built on a foundation of compassion, great intention, and integrity. She wanted the Club to be a place where they could turn with anything.
“When I met Michelle, I was at a new and difficult phase of my life as single mother taking care of my four children and working tirelessly for their future. My only hope was the Club would keep my children safe and in good health while I worked, but the Club did so much more! Since then, with your help and direction my four children have done amazing things. They became leaders and gained unique experiences with hiking club, the Keystone leadership program, and swim team. Because of Michelle, they became the young and talented educated young adults they are today. Michelle—I want you to know that our family’s success is just as much your success. Your guidance and mentorship put our family along a much better path. Whenever we spoke, I knew you cared for my family’s future as much as I did. We will always have you in our good blessings. You are incredible! ¡Te queremos mucho!” — Club parent Irma
While overseeing the day-to-day operations at the Club, Michelle continued to provide direct service to members. She offered fitness programs, Girls Group, and a young mothers group which gave young moms an opportunity learn about resources and stay connected to one another.
“Growing up at the Club, I was surrounded by so many powerful, caring, loving, and supportive women. My years at the Club are days I still talk about now and I am 32 years old! Michelle was one of my favorite people—I remember her always inviting us girls into her office and letting us talk, cry, be angry, be happy, and just be our true selves. Many people have a safe space, but I had a safe person. I knew with her, she would help find a solution or give me the opportunity to let it out! One of my favorite things about Michelle was that she would never tell me what I wanted to hear, but always kept it real and told me what I needed to hear. I am forever grateful for Michelle and my time spent with her at the Club! She is an amazing person and a lifelong mentor.” — Girls Group member Nicollette (a.k.a “Crispy”)
In 2008 Michelle moved into the Executive Director role and she became more engrained into the community. She built lasting relationships with the key stakeholders in the city and joined local clubs and committees to ensure the voice of our Club was represented in the city and beyond. Michelle structured our local advisory board, built up existing fundraisers, and came up with her own innovative ways to raise funds locally for the Club. Some ideas were super successful, like the Chelsea Chase 5K, created in partnership with Chelsea Police Department. Michelle made facility improvements targeting safety both inside and out, and organized an effort to build a Club playground, offering a fun, safe, outdoor space for members.
When she joined the Main Office in 2016 as Executive Vice President of Operations, Michelle had the opportunity to have a greater impact for all of BGCB. She worked closely with BGCB’s operations team to ensure they were organizing efforts in support of the Clubs and the day-to-day programming that we run. Michelle is collaborative by nature so she was great about gathering information and including people’s opinions in the decision-making process. She was a huge support to a number of committees and to all us Executive Directors.
Michelle is leaving BGCB to take on a new challenge as CEO of Boys & Girls Club of Greater Billerica. I know she’s got this because her leadership style is all about the mission. She’s able to connect on a personal level with everyone—community members, Club members, staff—and that compassion and thoughtful leadership is all she needs.
— Gina Centrella
Kraft Family Executive Director
Gerald and Darlene Jordan Club
The mission of Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston is to help young people, especially those who need us most, build strong character and realize their full potential as responsible citizens and leaders. We do this by providing a safe haven filled with hope and opportunity, ongoing relationships with caring adults, and life-enhancing programs.