June 27, 2024

Friend Raiser Achiever Spotlight: Jamari

Our monthly Achiever Spotlight highlights current and alumni Achievers. For current Achievers, we look at how the Friends-Boston program is impacting them today. For alumni, we see the role the program played in helping them to find success after they graduated. Their stories are part of our story, and we're excited to share them.

This month's Achiever Spotlight focuses on our 2024 Achiever of the Year: Jamari. He's reaching the end of his time in the Friends-Boston program, and we wanted to share his story in his own words using his speech from this year's Friend Raiser.


Some of you may know my face from last year's Friend Raiser. The only difference is I'm a little bit slimmer now. My name is Jamari Rivera. I am an 18-year-old graduate from Excel Academy Charter High in East Boston and will be attending UMass Dartmouth this upcoming fall semester. It has felt like a long marathon that's still not over. I'll be breaking the barrier of generational curses of going to college in my family. But today, I want to give a brief speech on what Friends of the Children-Boston means to me, and how it has shaped me into the man I wanted to be today

I've been with Friends-Boston for more than 13 years!! I’ve been in the program since I was five and can remember everything like it was yesterday. Since a young age, I was always spoiled by my mother. I'm talking about toys, take-out food every day, the freshest outfits and haircuts ever. If you want me to be real, blame my mother for how greedy I am today. My mother was a black, strong young queen, and my dad tried his best to support me without a job. I was raised on the gritty streets of Roxbury where everybody had to fend for themselves, and I knew firsthand the struggles of the community, even at a young age. I attended Trotter Elementary School – a beacon of hope in the neighborhood often overshadowed by adversity but also a place where I caused a lot of problems. That’s when I met my first mentor from Friends-Boston - Zack.

Zack was a tall, stocky man who always showed empathy, compassion, and kindness. He was one of the first people that gave me a piece of mind at a young age. He showed me that I'm not a factor of my environment, and I can be something greater in life rather than a statistic. Man, do I miss that man. I wish I could tell him how much of a role he played in my life and how I graduated high school. Thank you Zack, and thanks to you, I didn’t fall through the cracks.

My next mentor was MK, short for Mary Kate, and Lord did I stress this woman out. I was running away from home, misbehaving, and having trouble with swearing. Every time MK picked me up from school, it felt like a field trip and I was filled with joy every time I saw her face. She taught me good manners, which was respecting the feelings and sentiments of others, showing equal regard to everyone, and also forgiveness which was understanding that people deserve a second chance. Without MK, I would be so cold hearted and I'm forever grateful.

In middle school, I wasn't that little kid under my mother’s wing anymore. I was a chick who just fell out of the nest who needed to explore the wonders of the world. This made me pick up bad habits which would later cause me to become an angry, misunderstood problem child. The only thing that helped me was the sport of football. Football has been my love language, my medicine when I'm sick, and the only friend I needed when I was feeling lonely. Football gave me a heart full of dreams that I'm still chasing at the age of 18. This is when I met my now mentor, Frank Coleman. Frank was not only a mentor, but a big brother, therapist, coach, friend, you name it. This man helped me change my life around. Football became my beacon of hope offering me a pathway to a better life. As I navigated the challenges of my neighborhood, the field became my home. With each game, my dreams grew brighter. Through football, I discovered a sense of purpose and determination, driving me to strive for success both on and off the field. It was more than just a game to me. It was the key to unlocking a brighter future and breaking free from the cycle of poverty and hardship. I started to refocus on school and prioritize doing good for myself and everyone around. And for that I thank you Frank. I thank you for the long, stressful nights of me complaining. The long practices where I called you old and fat because you told me I was running to slow. I thank you for giving me chance and allowing me to find myself as a man

I've been through a lot of trials and tribulations throughout my childhood. But one thing I will always be grateful for is the worst times of my life. Without trials and tribulations, I feel like I won’t be the man that I am today. Friends of the Children-Boston has helped me realize my worth, and no matter how big the obstacle, no matter how big the struggle, I can always prevail. So, the last thank you I want to give is to Friends-Boston for giving me hope, and for giving me the realization that I mean something. Thank you for all the mentors and the people I stressed out through all my 18 Years. No words can explain how grateful I am, so I'm going to let my work speak for itself. My long-lasting goal is to make myself proud. I will end with this - I give my word that I will make myself and everybody in this building proud.

Thank you!