Boston Uncornered founded in 2016, is a really small and hyper focused non-profit whose goal is to disrupt urban poverty through the lens of (core influencers) in the community that are driving most of the violence within the community. You may be asking What is a Core influencer?
Core influencers are individuals who have had an impact in the community, unfortunately in a negative capacity but also have a large personal network. They are not always the people that are most violent, oftentimes they are the individuals directing violence. Boston Uncornered believes that by finding the “patient zero” who is going to have the greatest impact on the community they can disconnect all of the branches and eradicate gang violence in Boston and thus, contribute to ending generational urban poverty in the community.
The Goal is not to work with gang members, the goal is to disrupt generational urban poverty by unlocking the potential of gang members and providing them with opportunities to access education and become contributing members of society to heal the community. Boston Uncornered achieves this goal by redirecting the entrepreneurial, networking and leadership skills of gang involved youth (Core Influencers) from violence and incarceration to obtain a college credential and family-sustaining wage—driving positive change in our neighborhoods. With the skills and opportunities to turn away from the “street corners” for good, they empower Core Influencers to use their influence, leadership abilities and networks to shift social norms in the neighborhoods—decreasing crime and increasing educational attainment and employment for all.
What makes Boston Uncornered Unique is that the staff are all locals of the communities they serve. They have shared experiences to the youth being serviced and can directly speak to the trauma that has lead to the decisions as well as the road ahead of them in changing their pathway. The College Readiness Advisors (CRA) are connected to the neighborhood and have clout in the parts of community that the students are active in, they know what is getting done and who Is doing it and can target those students with the greatest impact and reach in an authentic way.
The CRA’S speak directly with individuals that are on the wrong path, with the clear messages “I made it out, and you can too.” CRA’S s are relentless in their approach, often times making contact with the same people dozens of times before they are willing to engage in the program. CRA’s help guide people throughout the whole process acting as a mentor/life coach helping to get the students connected with everything from GED courses to attending court dates. The work that the CRA’s do on a daily basis is the work and is why Boston Uncorned has had the results being seen in the communities that they serve.
Boston Uncornered Pre-Covid was engaging up-to 300 core influencers annually. Neighborhoods with Uncornered students have seen 3x lower crime incidents which in terms of dollars and scents saves the city a total of $5.5 million dollars. An astonishing 91% of their students do not return to criminal behaviors, 70% of students matriculate to college & 68% continue to college each year
Covid forced Boston Uncornered to adapt and adjust and meet people where they are at, in this case virtually. Boston Uncornered had to change from meeting in person with students to hosting virtual meetings. Boston Uncornered was not going to leave their students out to dry so they provided students with online assistance. One positive take away from 2020 was the addition of a clinical director to the Boston Uncornered team. This addition along with the hard work of three dedicated interns have allowed Boston Uncornered to provide their students and staff with clinical support as they navigate their lives and growth as it intersects with a global pandemic that disproportionately impacted their communities.
They are also able to provide students with a small stipend. This stipend provides students with some breathing room, where their basic needs can be met, allowing them to think outside of the survival window and give them an opportunity to invest the time and effort into their futures and dreams.
On top of GED classes, Boston Uncornered also helps their students enroll in college, helping them through the financial aid process and grant opportunities. They are partnered with Bunker Hill Community College, RCC, BFIT and are continually working on building relationships with other colleges, universities and educational institutions of all kinds in the area, with the ultimate goal being able to give out scholarships and grants for private institutions. The dream, is that one day their students will be graduating from schools like Harvard.
They also are aware that the standard path for education isn’t for everyone, so they have partnered with vocational institutions in the state and are exploring internships and licensing programs to give their students as many avenues for education as possible with the goal always being the disruption of generational urban poverty.
The Executive Director of Boston Uncornered, Francisco “Tito” SantosSilva put it best when he said “Change comes from discomfort”. Boston Uncornered Co-founders Mark Culliton and Michelle Caldeira empower Tito, his staff and students to seek discomfort and become the “core influencer” that will make a difference in the community. The board is open, supportive and willing to be flexible, adapting to a changing world and environment to best support the mission as dictated by the front line staff. Those closest to the work.
Tito and his team plans to do big things with Boston Uncornered, building on their success thus far. They know, however, how much work that is going to be and Tito believes that In the non-profit the world, “The team around you is literally everything, if you’re team is trash, then your trash.” And Tito feels setup to win. He added “I Feel like Tom Brady going to Tampa Bay, he has all these weapons, 3 #1 Wide receivers and 2 # 1 tight end. Francisco (Depina) is the Gronkonswki of the team, Will Dunn is on the outside like Mike Evans, Inita (Jones) is Antonio Brown, not to mention a host of other important, contributing players. The Co-Founders Mark (Culliton) and Michelle (Caldeira) are like BRUCE ARIANS. All I have to do is quarterback.”
Find out more below!
Contact them at
222 Bowdoin Street, Dorchester MA 02122
Tel: (617) 944-1086 | Fax: (617) 410-9975
Francisco Depina Profile
Francisco’s journey is a shining example of what Boston Uncornered can do in Dorchester. Francisco grew up in Dorchester and attended Madison High School, he was a troubled kid and was Kicked out of Madison in 9th grade. Francisco was told he could no longer attend BPS, his only option at the time was to attend a job corps in Springfield MA. Francisco Did not like his time at the job corps, there was a lot of gang activity which led to Francisco getting into many fights. He ended up being kicked out of the job core in Springfield.
After leaving the Job Corps he Went back to his neighborhood, Norton st where he was raised and currently resides. After a few years hiatus Francisco decided to give the Job Corps another chance this time going to the Job core in Worcester Mass. Francisco remembers being told by a Math teacher that by the age of 18 he would be dead or in jail, Francisco reached a point in life where he actually believed that would be how his life would play out.
School wasn’t in his mind anymore, and he began to go down the wrong path, Francisco got involved with gang activity. One day he and his friends got into an altercation with some folks from the neighborhood, things escalated quickly and before he knew it Francisco was on the run, the whole time he was thinking he was about to go to jail.
The next day he went back to the block and had a conversation with a local in the neighborhood who saw the alteration play out, they talked about other paths francisco could take, they talked about classes that were being offered at a local Log school in dorchester, but at the time Francisco did not want to go down that road again. The gentleman did not give up, he continued to speak with francisco, if he couldn’t find him on the block, he would go to his home.
He started to connect with Francisco on a personal level, eventually Francisco began to go to the Log school, he went multiple times each time with varying success. They always kept the door open for him, one day the director of the Log school Larry Mase offered to pay francisco to clean up in exchange for taking another class, Francisco did that for a while and that evolved into working the front desk, people at the time were not happy with this movie, arguing that he should continue to get his GED. Larry believed in Francisco and kept him working at the front desk, this was invaluable to Francisco, it is what made him say to himself that he believes in me when I don’t believe in myself, he saw something in me when I didn’t see it in myself. He fully committed to turning his life around and with hard work he received his high school equivalency diploma, which for Francisco it was a big step, he had been at a point where he never thought he would be doing that. Francisco then moved onto a different role, he became a recruiter.
To this day Fransicso Favorite part of the work is walking the same corners he was hanging on and seeing the same guys he was hanging out with and even the same guys that he had problems with when he was on the corner. Francisco added “When people turn the corners they see drug dealers, gang bangers, killers and shooters. When we walk down those same corners we see entrepreneurs, mathematicians, scientists and business owners”.
It’s tough work, people often will ignore you or disrespect you, the key is to be patient and never give up. He doesn’t give up on people, he helps with the little things Oh you have a court date, need a license little things like this are major victories to building relationships. If you don’t like the program it’s ok, Francisco will still be there to help with the small things and that constant support will eventually convince people to take a different path in life.
For Francisco what makes the program work is the mindset that Boston Uncorned operates on, which is first focusing on providing people with time to heal, maybe you have a court case coming up or recently lost a loved one. You need time to heal and you need time to motivate yourself and you need other people to help motivate yourself. Once they can get you to the point when you are able to heal, francisco and the team will help you with the next steps
For Francisco the work is centered around relationships. In order to build those relationships and build trust you need to be patient and be there for them. You need to meet people where they are at, not just meet them and then leave them there. He supports his students 24/7, he goes to court with his students, works with probation and is in the neighborhoods everyday, Francisco loves the job, the work suits him and he is able to get the most out of his skills, it’s a passion for him.
His message to his guys is that they have a legit job, their job is to allow Boston Uncornered to provide them with all the support they can to turn them into a successful contributing member of society. Not everyone that goes through the program follows the same path to success, Francisco takes pride in seeing his guys achieve the small steps, because all of those small steps when added together will lead to a big change. Start on the corner and end up in college and beyond.