My name is Andrea Macone. I work at UMass Boston in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and I am a graduate student in American Studies and an Emerging Leaders Fellow in the College of Management's Center for Collaborative Leadership. I chair UMB's Recovery Task Force, a collaborative forum that seeks to create a safe and open environment for campus community members in or seeking recovery and their allies. We specifically focus on supporting individuals in their academic, personal and professional growth; advising key stakeholders; and engaging with the community.
I myself am a person in recovery, and this drives everything I do. I am motivated by the idea that I can only keep my recovery by sharing it with others, and in doing so I can hopefully help even one student or employee get through a difficult day on campus and return the next day instead of giving up.
Big picture, I hope to one day see an end to the stigma associated with addiction because it is a deadly barrier to seeking help. It is also the biggest challenge to the work we do. Talking about addiction makes people uncomfortable, even though every member of society is affected in some way. As a country we have begun to shift from viewing addiction as a criminal issue to a public health crisis, and Massachusetts and Boston in particular have taken leadership roles in this movement. We on the Task Force have participated in Recovery High School Day at UMB, partnered with Mayor Walsh's Office of Recovery Services, and are planning an interdisciplinary colloquium to discuss addiction in an academic context. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we are working steadfastly to humanize the disease and create opportunities for empathy to replace animosity.
Identifying as a person in recovery at my workplace is not something I expected to do, but Mayor Walsh and others in leadership positions who openly identify as being in recovery themselves have paved the way for more of us to step up and do the same. In openly acknowledging how my past has led to my present, and defying the shame that has been historically attached to a past like mine, I hope to inspire others to take action. I am living proof that people in recovery are capable of impressive accomplishments not only despite of, but as a result of, having experienced and overcome addiction. I am proud, not ashamed, to be in recovery. It is my greatest success.
What advice would you give to the aspiring leaders and changemakers among Boston's millennial population?
If there's something you're passionate about, find a way to weave that passion into what you do. If you don't feel like you have the knowledge, seek out training and mentors who will help uncover your skills and potential. Think about where you can make the most impact, and get involved so you understand the players and politics. Own your story, ask for help, and be confident about what you have to offer. There are thousands of people waiting for change, but being a part of making that change happen is far more rewarding. This is our city, and it's our responsibility and privilege to help shape it.
SPARK IMPACT AWARDS
SPARK Boston is Mayor Walsh’s millennial engagement initiative. Our mission is to engage the next generation of civic leaders and social entrepreneurs in the work of city government. From dedicated public servants to community builders and connectors, millennials are some of Boston’s most impactful citizens. Each year, the City of Boston celebrates the millennial contribution to our city with the Annual SPARK Impact Awards.