By John Lynds
Last Monday, East Boston residents Justin Pasquariello began work as the new Executive Director of the East Boston Social Centers. Pasquariello replaces longtime former Executive Director John Kelly who retired last month after three decades of service.
Pasquariello was born and raised in Arlington to adopted parents but remained in close contact with his family back in England.
“I always liked East Boston,” said Pasquariello, who is a duel U.S. and British Citizen. “I was adopted by my family when I was nine but kept an open adoption saw I saw my family in England every year. And every year before I left we’d have dinner at Jeveli’s before I would leave.”
Pasquariello would go on to attend Harvard University and after graduating was looking for an affordable place to live close to Boston. He landed in Eastie after taking a harbor cruise seeing Piers Park and settled on Lexington Street.
“I then when to Harvard Graduate School and left East Boston for a while but then came back and started living in the former Mount Carmel School,” said Pasquariello.
Pasquariello and his wife, Vanessa immediately became active in the community with Vanessa serving on the Board at Zumix.
“I heard about the Social Centers Executive Director position through our friend Steve Holt who encouraged me to take a shot and interview,” he said.
Prior to interviewing and securing the position, Pasquariello drew from his life experience as a foster child and adoptee, during his Junior year in college. He founded Silver Lining Mentoring, a Boston-based mentoring organization that empowers foster youth to flourish through mentoring and the development of critical life skills. Then, after he completed a Master in Business Administration/ Master in Public Administration, he served for over five years as the Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch, a research and policy network with the mission to improve the health and development of young children.
“I have worked with other community members and friends on a project to try to better understand gang violence in this community,” said Pasquariello. “At Children’s HealthWatch, I was interested in doing more work in early education/ child care, and I am excited to be coming to an agency doing such important work in that space. I love the approach to family engagement, and to working with people across the lifespan here. I really appreciate our inclusivity and the role we play in enabling a variety of community organizations to host meetings, activities, and events here.”
In a letter to the Social Centers board and staff, Pasquariello wrote heartfelt words expressing his honor and joy of being able to lead the non-profit agency into a new chapter.
“I am honored and excited to join you all as the incoming Executive Director,” he said. “Throughout the interview process for this role, and as I have had the chance to talk with more staff members, board members, and community members, I have become very proud of the great work that happens here at the Social Centers, and of the strong values this institution holds. I am deeply grateful to each of you, all other staff, volunteers, board members, community members, program participants, and donors for all you have done to build and maintain this vibrant and impactful institution. I join you all in gratitude to John Kelly for his 30 years of outstanding service and leadership.”
Pasquariello added that he was excited to meet more community stakeholders in the coming weeks.
Pasquariello and his wife Vanessa are also the proud parents of their two-year-old son, Rocco.