Celebrating Leadership at the 2019 buildOn Boston Dinner

On Thursday evening, members of the buildOn movement gathered at the State Room in Boston to celebrate the profound impact that buildOn students and supporters are having on the city of Boston and communities around the world. The evening raised support for buildOn’s work to empower Boston students and underserved communities in seven of the economically poorest countries in the world.

A view of tables, guests, and the skyline of Boston from the State Room location.

Above: The 2019 buildOn Boston Dinner took place on Thursday, May 9th, at the State Room in Boston.

buildOn Boston board member Karen Vachon kicked off the 2019 Boston Dinner as the evening’s co-emcee along with Aidan, a buildOn student from the Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH) who has served more than 160 hours in Boston as only a freshman in high school. Before inviting the first speaker to the stage, Karen and Aidan thanked the buildOn Boston Board, as well as the volunteers who helped plan buildOn’s participation in the Boston Marathon and the five runners who represented buildOn in the race.

A buildOn student and buildOn Boston Board member stand at the podium of a large stage, kicking off the event.

Above: Aidan (left), a buildOn student from CASH, and Karen Vachon, a buildOn board member in Boston, welcome the crowd and kick off the celebration.

The celebration continued with a moving speech from buildOn students Shar, a senior at CASH, and Helen, a senior at Jeremiah E. Burke High School. Together, Helen and Shar each shared what inspires them to serve and the lessons they have learned from service. “For me, my passion for service comes from wanting to help people to get the resources and the programs they need to help them live better lives, to support their families, and raise their kids, no matter what they are going through,” Shar said.

“Service teaches you humility, and without humility, you can’t lead properly,” Helen said. “When you have humility, you can empathize with others and make good decisions.”

Above: buildOn students Helen (left) and Shar (right) share what service means to them at the Boston Dinner. 

After Helen and Shar shared their stories of service, they called buildOn’s President, Founder, & CEO Jim Ziolkowski to the stage. Jim shared more of the impact that buildOn students like Helen and Shar are having on their own communities as leaders in Boston and other major U.S. cities.

buildOn's Founder and President, Jim Ziolkowski speaks to the audience about buildOn's impact from the stage at the Boston Dinner.

Above: buildOn’s Founder, President, & CEO Jim Ziolkowski shares the impacts of buildOn students in their communities in Boston and other cities around the U.S.

Following Jim’s speech and an appeal in which buildOn Boston supporters showed their generosity, Perla, a senior at CASH, shared how being paired with coaches from PwC in buildOn’s Partnership Program has impacted her life. “I want to say thank you to Stephen and all of the coaches from PwC for coming to CASH and teaching us about Financial Literacy,” Perla said. “They made it so simple for me to talk to them about my career goals of becoming a doctor and helped me look at the reality of what it will take to get there.”

Perla, a buildOn student in Bosotn, smiles at the podium while giving her speech at the Boston Dinner.

Above: Perla, a buildOn student from Boston, speaks about what it meant to her to be a part of buildOn’s Partnership Program with PwC.

Perla then welcomed her coach and buildOn Boston board member Stephen Coyle to the stage. Stephen spoke about how being a part of buildOn’s Partnership Program at CASH was meaningful to him and his coworkers at PwC. (Read more about PwC and buildOn joining forces in buildOn’s Partnership Program here.)

Stephen ended his speech by announcing buildOn’s first ever Constructive Leadership Award winner in Boston. The Constructive Leadership Award is reserved for a student who led by example and built others up through service. “Tonight, I present the Constructive Leadership Award to a student who is a force of positivity and determination and is someone who is consistently supporting younger buildOn students,” Stephen said. “I am pleased to announce this year’s Constructive Leadership Award Winner is Perla!”

Stephen Coyle, a buildOn Board Member in Boston, surprises Perla, a buildOn student, with the Constructive Leadership for her outstanding leadership and service in Boston. Perla smiles and looks surprised as Stephen hold a plaque with her name.

Above: Stephen Coyle, a Partner at PwC and a coach in buildOn’s Partnership Program at the CASH in Boston, surprises his buildOn student partner, Perla, with the Constructive Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership in Boston.

Next, Kevin Bowes, a special education teacher and football coach at CASH took the stage to share his perspective on how buildOn has impacted students at his school. “I’ve seen kids graduate who I don’t think would have made it without being connected to buildOn, I’ve heard students say that they didn’t realize the power they had until they were able to help someone less fortunate than themselves,” Kevin shared. “I’ve seen kids who never ventured too far off of their own street go to places like Malawi or Senegal to help build a school.”

The evening concluded with a rousing cheer of “WE ARE BUILDON” from buildOn’s founder Jim and all of the buildOn students in attendance.

Students and buildOn staff cheer on the stage with their hands in the center at the end of the celebration.

Above: buildOn Boston students join Jim Ziolkowski on the stage to bring the evening to an end.

Special thanks to the buildOn Boston Board and the following corporate partners who made the celebration a success: Cognizant, CGI, EY, GE, John Hancock, McKinsey & Company, Mobile Beacon, PwC, Rodan + Fields, Salesforce, State Street, and Synchrony.