At the heart of everything the Boston Foundation has done over the last century is its endowment, the Permanent Fund for Boston.Read More
Born in Boston’s West End in 1840, James Longley became a director of major financial institutions in Boston and Chicago and the owner of some of the largest textile mills in New England. As someone who cared deeply about the city in which he was born and was active in numerous charities, he approved of the new Boston Foundation, which had been launched in 1915 to help those who most needed assistance in our community.
At the time, that included European immigrants flooding into the city, as well as families suffering from the effects of World War I. Known for his concern for others and his many contributions to charities, when he died, in 1916, he left the first large bequest to the Permanent Fund for Boston at the Boston Foundation. His gift was unrestricted, giving the Boston Foundation the resources to be the first community foundation in the country to make grants.
Today, almost 100 years later, one of the programs his legacy is supporting is helping Elisio Depina fulfill his dream of a college education.
“It changed my life.” This is what Elisio Depina says about Success Boston, a college completion initiative that helps Boston Public Schools students get ready, get in and get through college. With a case management approach, the initiative provides students with one-on-one coaching, help with applications and financial aid and any other assistance they might need. “The first thing Elisio needed was a new green card,” says Elisio’s Success Boston coach Danny Rivera, who works with students at Bunker Hill Community College. “He had lost his card and they were telling him it would take months to get a new one. So I got right on it and he had the card in time to start his first day of college.”
“Danny told me ‘we can do this together’,” says Elisio, “and we did. The next thing he did was help me apply for financial aid. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so worried about money. If it weren’t for Danny and Success Boston, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.” Elisio, who is now a U.S. citizen, came to Boston from Cape Verde when he was 16, just seven years ago, with his father, two brothers and a sister. He worked such long hours at a McDonald’s to make ends meet that he fell behind in his homework, fell asleep in classes, and eventually dropped out of high school.
“I could have gone on working for McDonald’s,” he says, “but I kept on thinking that I wanted more out of life. I kept asking myself who I wanted to be. So I went back to Madison Park High School and passed all of my courses and graduated. I knew I wanted to go to college, but I’ve always had financial problems and I didn’t know how to start. Then I got a call from Danny, who said ‘I’m here to help you’,” and that’s when my life began to change.”
Today, Elisio, who Danny says is like “a force of nature,” mentors other Bunker Hill students and is attending his first year at New Haven University where he is studying Investigative Services. He and Danny made sure that his credits from Bunker Hill would count toward a Bachelor’s degree at a four-year college, so he expects to graduate in two years. His face lights up when he mentions Edna, his fiancé, who is also from Cape Verde and attends Bridgewater State University. “She inspires and motivates me,” he says. ”We both believe that if you want to do something, you have to understand what it takes and you have to do that no matter what. That’s the only way to succeed in life.”