Launched in 2011
“Entrepreneurship is the hook;
college and career success are the goals”
Before there was BUILD in Boston, there were three big-hearted venture capitalists with a dream to make a difference in the lives of teens in their community. In 2008, Jeff Glass, Ajay Agarwal, and Scott Friend of Bain Capital connected with BUILD’s founder and then CEO, Suzanne McKechnie Klahr, and the plans to bring BUILD to Boston were born.
The Boston site was launched in 2011 with 90 students in four schools by Ayele Shakur, now CEO of BUILD National. Ayele brought decades of experience as an innovator in urban education to BUILD, including 11 years as a classroom teacher in Boston and Los Angeles Public Schools. Under her leadership, the Boston site grew to serve more than 300 students per year in six schools, launched several innovative pilots, and celebrated numerous achievements. Here are a few highlights that exemplify BUILD’s leadership and innovation in Boston over the past decade:
Today, there’s unprecedented momentum and interest in BUILD’s work in Boston and across the country. Now, more than ever, America needs entrepreneurship education. BUILD is recognized as a leader in teaching self-agency, resilience & grit, growth mindset and helping high school students to develop social capital, financial literacy, and valuable 21st Century skills. As an entrepreneurial organization working at the intersection of education innovation, racial equity, and community, BUILD is uniquely positioned to not only address the challenges our students face navigating high school, college, and career success, but also drive lasting social change. We now recognize that it’s not enough for us to work within a system not built for equity – we have to work to change the system itself.
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Alex Laser joins the BUILD Greater Boston team with over 12 years of experience in secondary education and project management in high schools around the country, including DC, Chicago and Greater Boston. It was during his early tenure teaching English in DC that Alex became a Year 1 BUILD teacher, igniting an enduring passion for community building and project-based learning. At every opportunity, he opened the four walls of his English classroom to guest speakers and field trips, partnering with an array of local teaching artists, theater companies, recording studios, even public television and radio programs. True to the BUILD spirit, Alex loves to provide students platforms to share their stories, topple dominant narratives about their communities, and pitch their vision of a better world.
In his most recent roles, Alex co-founded and facilitated the Boston-based group PARC (Practicing Anti-Racist Collegiality), a coalition of White educator allies and BIPOC educators engaging in tough conversations on race, matching community activism with rigorous inner work. He has several years of experience writing anti-bias curriculum and training educators in DEI and culturally responsive teaching practices. During COVID, he also organized Edubabble, an eZine showcasing the creative voices of educators outside the classroom, and Coffee House, a virtual monthly meetup and writing space for educators seeking self-care and community through communal art and storytelling. Alex holds a B.A. in English Literature and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education from George Washington University. He is excited to serve BUILD Greater Boston students and teachers in realizing their entrepreneurial dreams!
Angela Stokes joins BUILD with varied non-profit experience across education, mentoring and corporate engagement. She is also a proponent of National Service, having served two years in AmeriCorps, solidifying her desire to give back to the community. Moving to Boston over a decade ago, Angela hoped to connect better to the community by becoming a mentor and pursued being a Big Sister. This experience has now helped her call Boston home. She is excited to join the BUILD team to continue connecting with students, maximizing their potential and engaging awesome mentors to do so too. In her spare time, Angela enjoys music, cooking and exploring parks with her toddler.
Bethany Thomas is the Executive Operations Manager of BUILD Boston. Before coming to BUILD she worked as the Director of Sales of Taste Buds Kitchen which helped her strengthen the multi-tasking, calendar organizing, and team-leading skills she now brings to BUILD. Although she has over 10+ years of volunteer experience, working for BUILD Boston fulfills her lifelong dream of working professionally in the Nonprofit world. Bethany has a B.A in both Journalism and Philosophy from The University of Massachusetts Amherst. She enjoys spending time with her loved ones, traveling the world, and hiking with her rescue pup, Moose.
“I BUILD because I know firsthand the powerful effect the right help can make for under-resourced youth. I believe in the ability of one single, caring person to help change the course of multiple lives.”
Betsy Neptune comes to BUILD with over 15 years of experience in community economic development in Latin America and the U.S. She is passionate about creating a world in which everyone can have a job that they love and one through which they can grow and develop in order to have a positive impact. In her most recent role as the Chief of Economic Development for the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, she led economic recovery and resilience efforts for 101 cities and towns in Greater Boston. During her tenure, she expanded the work of the team beyond traditional economic development efforts, to include workforce development, digital access, and other strategies to advance wealth creation with a focus on reducing the racial wealth gap. Over the past year, her team played a key role in COVID response and recovery efforts throughout the Greater Boston region.
Prior to that role, she led the Small Business Technical Assistance program for the City of Boston, after serving as the Executive Director of Egleston Square Main Street, an organization in Jamaica Plain/Roxbury whose mission is to support small businesses. This work was shaped by her experiences working in community economic development for several years in Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.
Betsy has a heart for teaching, coaching, and entrepreneurship, so BUILD is a perfect fit. She has taught high school and graduate-level classes and also coaches existing and emerging entrepreneurs through her coaching business. She is a graduate of Trinity College with a degree in Anthropology and has certificates in Nonprofit Management and Corporate Social Responsibility. She received her MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and lives in Boston.
Jennie Woo is a nonprofit fundraising professional with over ten years of experience in the nonprofit sector. In her various roles at Bottom Line, she has developed the organization’s individual giving program, deepened relationships with key corporate partners, supported the implementation of cross-regional communications and giving campaigns, and executed signature annual events for the Massachusetts region. Prior to Bottom Line, Jennie supported donor communications, major gift cultivation and stewardship, and donor database management.
Jennie is passionate about increasing access to opportunities for the next generation and is excited to join the team at BUILD Boston to connect the visions of young entrepreneurs with supporters in Greater Boston. As an active member in her community, Jennie also serves as a Town Meeting member for the town of Norwood and a member of Progress Norwood, a community action group that informs, organizes, and participates in events that are aligned with progressive and inclusive values. In her spare time, she likes to cook and be active with her family, including Bobby Furmino, their energetic lab mix. Jennie graduated cum laude from Rutgers University with honors in Art History.
John Morytko joins BUILD with a diverse background in the nonprofit industry. Previously he has operated in roles that include volunteer management, grant writing, and even program implementation in Ghana for Pencils of Promise. Most recently, John worked with Citizen Schools to raise funds around the country for programs focused on STEM education and increasing the representation of underserved populations in STEM career fields. John has a BSBA in Entrepreneurship from Xavier University, as well as his Masters in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. John is excited to join BUILD and work to provide students with new educational opportunities and help them find the same passion for entrepreneurship that sparked his career.
In his free time, John is an advocate for educational nonprofit work across the globe. He serves as the UN youth representative for Caring for Cambodia and is always planning his next international trip. When not working or volunteering, he can be found cooking, at a baseball game, or with his family exploring New England.
Len joins the BUILD Boston team with nine years of experience in education and youth development work. He has most recently worked at the Pingree School outside of Boston, as the Dean of Students for six years. In addition to his role overseeing student life, Len has taught social studies and coached basketball at Pingree. He also serves as a workshop presenter and conference facilitator on the topics of social justice in education and student motivation. He offers professional development webinars for educators in school districts across the state through the Massachusetts Partnership for Youth and works alongside a diverse group of educators from around the country to deliver social justice curricula for high schoolers at the annual NAIS Student Diversity Leadership Conference.
As a volunteer, Len supports nonprofit organizations around Greater Boston, including serving on the board of directors of Aaron’s Presents, a service-learning program for kids in under-resourced communities on the north shore. His joy in working with young people was sparked after college, while playing pro basketball overseas and coaching local youth teams. Whether it’s on the court, in the classroom, or in life, Len is excited by the process of experiential learning and believes wholeheartedly in the power of a growth mindset. He earned a B.A. in Sociology from Amherst College and an M.Ed. in K-12 Learning and Instruction from Northeastern University.
Shannon Hayes joins the BUILD Boston team with years of experience in youth development and K-12 education in Boston. As former Interim Executive Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities & Partnerships and Director of Expanded Learning Opportunities at Boston Public Schools, Shannon worked with community-based organizations and school leaders to plan and execute summer and vacation week programs across the city that offered students academic support and enrichment opportunities. Prior to that, she was the Afterschool & Summer Learning Program Manager at Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA), overseeing the implementation of arts-integrated, experiential learning programs for English Learners in Boston’s South End.
Shannon is excited to join the team at BUILD Boston to support and develop strong school partnerships and high quality teacher and volunteer training for our school partners in Boston. Shannon is a licensed educator and holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education and Creative Arts in Learning from Lesley University and a bachelor’s in Critical Social Thought from Mount Holyoke College. In her spare time, she enjoys travel, yoga and cooking, and is currently learning ASL.
Toiell Washington joins Build with several years of experience in the nonprofit sector. As a Boston native, she has worked with a number of different organizations in the city doing violence prevention work, such as Casa Myrna and Mothers for Justice and Equality. While working with this demographic, she found a love for community building. In more recent years, she has become involved in education-based organizations centered around mentoring and empowerment, including Strong Women Strong Girls Boston.
Outside of her work as a nonprofit leader, she is the founder and creator of The Master Tools, a game company that starts conversations around systems of oppression. Toiell is committed to exploring and introducing topics in social justice education in a non-traditional way. Both her experience in the nonprofit field and work as a social entrepreneur make her a great fit for BUILD. She believes it is important that we, as a collective, are accommodating all different kinds of learning styles and encouraging the younger generation to be creative.
Toiell also runs a community organization and digital platform called Black Boston to keep young Black people in the city politically engaged. As someone heavily involved in her community, she has been recognized for her leadership in many different capacities. In 2020, she was the recipient of the Boston Celtics Heroes Among Us Award. She was also awarded Best Social Justice Advocate of the year by Boston Magazine in 2021.
198 Tremont St. #251 Boston, MA 02116
Phone (617) 315-8231
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