Taking Flight


For Juan Catano, the road to success has been a difficult one–but now the young engineer is ready to take off.

The memory is so fresh Juan can smell the sun-splashed grass.

He’s young. Maybe six or seven. His father is by his side. The two are standing at the outskirts of a field just outside of Medillin, Colombia. Overhead, radio control planes dart through the sky, buzzing like wasps, piloted by the wealthy of the city. That was about when Juan fell in love with airplanes.

He fell in love with engineering not long after, when his father walked into their tiny apartment one night with a damaged motor from an RC plane. Juan had no idea where he got it; even a piece of machinery like this, which didn’t work, would have been beyond the budget of their family’s meager earnings. Deep into the evening, he and his father huddled together on the balcony and took apart the engine, combing through its innards, peering into its mechanical mysteries.

That night and those days on the mini-airfield would set Juan Catano, now 21, on a path that would lead him to the present, when he will soon graduate from Daniel Webster College with a degree in aeronautical engineering.

The journey, however, wasn’t without its turbulence. Juan’s father, a smoker since the age of eight, succumbed to lung cancer after a year-long battle, which saw him decay to the point where he needed help with the most basic of needs. It was a prolonged and devastating loss for Juan, who was just nine years old at the time. The last words he remembers from his father: “Always take care of your mother.”

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Youth Venture Hits the Big Screen


Social entrepreneurship projects get the red carpet treatment at the annual Youth Venture Year-End Celebration, held at Kendall Square Cinema.

On a warm May evening, teams of youth from across the Greater Boston area pooled in the lobby of Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge. The theater, known for its run of art house and indie films, was the venue for another unique showing: United Way’s Youth Venture Year-End Celebration.

It was a night of acknowledgement and excitement, as youth spread the word about their year-long social impact projects. Whether it was an anti-bullying campaign, the self-esteem fashion show, an initiative to promote inter-generational mentorship or even a “Save the Honey Bees” project out of Dorchester, the goals for all the youth were the same: make a difference in their communities.
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The Little Things


When she arrived in Massachusetts with nothing to her name, Tamiko discovered that well-meaning people placed in her life at just the right time would give her more than she ever dreamed.

It’s the little things–or, rather, the absence of the little things–that make it so tough. Tamiko looks back two years when she, her 15-month old and her child in utero were calling a shelter home. Something as simple and overlooked by so many like having your own shower and your own bed—those are the things that sap hope.

It was December 2012 and Tamiko’s family had disintegrated. She had left South Carolina and the ruins of her old life and, so desperate to start over, arrived in Massachusetts with a rambunctious little boy on one arm, minimal belongings on the other and a baby in her belly.
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Egleston YMCA Gets Extreme Makeover

United Way volunteer teams spent National Volunteer Week transforming the Egleston YMCA


Thanks to more than 100 United Way volunteers who spent National Volunteer Week (April 11-17) completing several projects to help transform the Egleston YMCA, kids came back from their spring school vacation last week to a seemingly brand new community space. Continue reading

Communities Across the State Promote the Importance of “Brain Building”

PrintFor the fourth year in a row, Massachusetts is celebrating “Brain Building in Progress” week to promote the importance of quality environments and experiences in young children’s learning and development.  For one week every year, parents, business leaders, educators, and leaders from over 80 communities host special events both during the official celebration week from April 12th – 19th, as well as throughout the month of April, to help build young minds and a more prosperous future for everyone in Massachusetts.    Continue reading

EEC and United Way Announce Brain Building in Progress Week in Massachusetts


BBiP Week 2015 pic

BOSTON – Recognizing the importance of enriching opportunities in children’s healthy development and learning, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley (United Way) announced today the kick-off of Brain Building in Progress Week in Massachusetts.

From April 12 to 18, families, educators, business leaders, and other partners engage in activities that support the importance of early enriching environments and experiences to the future success of young children.  These efforts are part of Massachusetts’ statewide campaign, Brain Building in Progress, that advances the critical role that adults play in fostering children’s brain development and learning.

Governor Baker signed a proclamation to declare April 12 to 18 as Brain Building in Progress Week in Massachusetts, which coincides with the national Week of the Young Child.  Throughout the week, EEC and United Way are providing resources to families that include tips for having “brain building moments” with children such as pointing out and naming items while grocery shopping, counting the number of stops while riding the bus or train, and asking open-ended questions after reading a story. Continue reading

Remembering Norman B. Leventhal

Toq-Sidman-Leventhal 2012
Norman B. Leventhal (1917-2015), with his daughter, Paula Sidman (left) and his grand-daughter, Hope Sidman at United Way’s Tocqueville Society celebration in 2012.

The Greater Boston business and nonprofit communities are remembering a real estate and philanthropic icon, mourning the loss of Norman B. Leventhal.    Like the imprint he left through his work on the City of Boston, Norman left an indelible mark on United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the children, youth and families we serve.  Continue reading

15 Years of Summer Experiences in Greater Lowell

15-SEGL-social-IconsOne summer can make the difference in a child’s future.

One evening makes that possible for the children of Greater Lowell: the Martini Spring Fling.

Thanks to the support of many generous donors in the region, over the past 15 years, we’ve raised well over $1 million for the Summer Experiences in Greater Lowell (SEGL) initiative and helped more than 30,000 youth in Greater Lowell access summer jobs and offset summer learning loss by exposing them to arts, culture, and leadership and academic skills that last a lifetime. Last year, SEGL support 13 community-based organizations, including Greater Lowell YMCA, UTEC Lowell, and Community Teamwork, Inc., and more. Continue reading

Two Weeks Left for Workers to Claim Earned Income Tax Credit

United Way’s free tax preparation effort aims to reach estimated 23% of eligible workers who leave these funds unclaimed each season

BOSTON – With Tax Day in just over two weeks, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is urging low-income workers to reach out to free tax preparation sites in their local communities to determine their eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other tax credits and refunds.

The IRS estimates 23% of the Earned Income Tax Credits go unclaimed each tax season in Massachusetts. Based on last year’s information, this means approximately $166 million could go unclaimed this year by low-income working individuals. To help more eligible individuals claim these tax credits, which are often left unclaimed because people are unaware of their eligibility, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, in partnership with Bank of America, is funding free tax preparation services at 11 locations in the region.  Continue reading