Education

Michelle Caldeira Has an Offer You Can’t Refuse

The senior vice president of College Bound Dorchester has a bold plan to defeat Boston’s gangs: Give them a better deal.


Hair and makeup by Julie Silva/Anchor Artists / Photo by Pat Piasecki

We believe ending gang violence in Boston and in the country is possible. The city’s high-impact gang players, according to the police department, total about 3,500 to 4,000 people. It’s not a large number.

Just because someone has been brought up in a gang and, in some cases, committed violent crimes does not mean they are not brilliant. In fact, if they have the resiliency to survive the streets, they probably have leadership skills. I took our CEO Mark Culliton’s mission to equip young people with the attitude, skills, and experience to graduate from college and figured out how to put it into action with the Boston Uncornered program.

We came upon a small group of young people who have a disproportionate impact on their neighborhoods: They represent just one percent of the population of Boston but they are involved in or responsible for 50 percent of the city’s homicides. We now call those young people Core Influencers.

Caldeira at a Glance

Moved from: Guyana to Brooklyn when she was 12
Came to Boston in: 2002 and started working for the Dimock Community Health Center
One of: Five siblings
Splits her time between: London and Boston

The unique and controversial thing we do in Boston Uncornered is provide the Core Influencers with a stipend so they can focus on figuring out how to be successful. We can change their community by getting them on a different path.

There is possibility and innovation in Dorchester. We should not just accept that certain parts of the city are bad, unsafe places to live.

Boston has grown into the city that I heard about when I moved here, but didn’t feel like everyone was experiencing. Now, more and more people have the opportunities to participate in the global innovation happening here.