Robert Lewis Jr.. a former Eastie resident, East Boston High School graduate knows firsthand of the impacts the
East Boston Social Centers have on the lives of youth and families.
Growing up in the Maverick projects Lewis had a support network in Eastie, like Debbie White, Marty Pino, Thomas Tassinari and Johnny Forbes who taught him that if he would dream big, good things would happen.
“I didn’t get to where I am in life by myself,” he said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child and that is true. I was just a kid growing up in the projects in Maverick, but I went on to do great things, travel the world, meet people like Nelson Mandela because of the people that were involved in the Social Centers and believed in me.”
The Social Centers will present the inaugural Community Activist award to Lewis, founder and President of The BASE, at tonight’s (Wednesday, Nov. 7) 100th Anniversary Gala at Suffolk Downs kicking off at 6 p.m.
Lewis credits the Social Centers as being an anchor in his young life.
“We are thrilled to recognize our outstanding alumnus Robert Lewis, Jr. as we celebrate this milestone anniversary,” said EBSC Executive Director Justin Pasquariello. “We look forward to announcing a vision for a future where all children in East Boston enter Kindergarten ready to learn and in which community members are joyful and thriving. This event embodies the East Boston Social Centers motto “when all give, all gain” because we could not have done this without the support of countless community members, stakeholders and leaders.”
In his adult life Lewis became a nationally recognized thought leader, public speaker and passionate advocate for urban youth. He has become well known as a bridge-builder and catalyst for collaboration between diverse business, civic and public sectors throughout the country. A 2015 Boston Magazine cover story listed Robert among the city’s 50 Most Powerful Leaders, calling him “a tireless advocate for inner-city kids.”
“All that success can be traced back to my time at the Social Centers, at East Boston Camps, growing up in Eastie,” he said. “Because there were people that saw something in me and made me believe in myself.”
In 2013 Lewis launched BASE, a program that leverages the power and passion of baseball to help student athletes find pathways to success both on and off the field. Since 2013, the BASE has had 138 student athletes matriculate to college and has provided $25 million in academic scholarships.
Aside from honoring Lewis, Mayor Martin Walsh will provide remarks at the anniversary gala and Cheryl Fiandaca, an award-winning journalist and chief investigative reporter for the WBZ-TV I-Team, will emcee the event. A mother will tell of the transformative impact the Social Centers has had in her life. Ten-decade stations will present a photographic history of East Boston and the Social Centers, while Living Legend storytellers will tell the story of each decade. Former Senate President Robert E. Travaglini will lead an exciting live auction.
“Also in attendance will be many elected and former elected officials, including many who are serving on the Honorary Committee and Gala Committee; and many other community leaders from both government and the private sector,” said Pasquariello. “Thomas N. O’Brien and HYM Investments, LLC, have generously provided the space for this event. We ask you to join us in celebrating 100 years at historic Suffolk Downs (www.ebsoc.org/100th-anniversary/ to learn more) while supporting our work that ensures individuals and families thrive in the communities we serve.”