Friday, January 21, 2011

Upholding a promise

Jeremy Rodriquez, 19, is just one of the Boston residents helped by the funds donated to this year's MGH United Way campaign. On Jan. 14, he spoke at the campaign's wrap-up breakfast at the Holiday Inn and shared how College Bound Dorchester, which receives funding from the United Way, helped him leave behind a life of violence and prepared him for college.

A two-time high school dropout and the child of a single mother, Rodriquez soon will enroll in courses at Bunker Hill Community College and hopes to eventually continue his education at UMass Boston.

Mark Culliton, chief executive officer of College Bound Dorchester, discussed how his organization is trying to change the culture of Boston's Dorchester neighborhood -- a culture that for many is more about violence than education.

"For a child born in Dorchester, the probability of graduating from college is 8 percent," Culliton said. "It isn't because a child from Dorchester lacks intelligence or is less hard-working, it's about a community that has lower expectations about what these children can accomplish."

He continued, "We want to change the culture of Dorchester so that all children will graduate from college. When we change that culture, middle and high school students will make better choices for their future."

The moving event was hosted by Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president and former board member of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. He congratulated the MGH community not only for raising more than any other hospital in the region but also for having the highest participation rate among area hospitals.

Slavin said the campaign goes hand-in-hand with a quote from the 1810 circular letter, "When in distress every man becomes our neighbor." This letter was sent to the Boston community by MGH founders Drs. James Jackson and John Collins Warren to drum up support for construction of a hospital.  Two hundred years later, the MGH is still helping Bostonians in need.

"I could go on and on about the ways this hospital contributes to the community, and our generosity to the United Way is certainly one of them," Slavin said.

Elizabeth Mort, MD, vice president for Quality and Safety, who served as a co-chair of this year's United Way campaign, thanked everyone who gave to the initiative. She announced that the effort raised $504,000, beating the campaign's monetary goal by 1 percent.

"You could have made another choice with your money, but you didn't," she said. "I'm amazed at how many of you said,  'Oh course I will give to the United Way, why wouldn't I?'"

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