My name is Mario Paredes. I am a lifelong learner and community activist. I am the proud son of two hard-working parents from Guatemala who came to the United States in the 1980's. I moved to Boston in 2011 to obtain my Master's Degree in Higher Education at Harvard. After years of working in various school and non-profit settings, I am now back in school as a law student in Boston University School of Law. I am also serving as a Board Member Centro Presente, a member-led immigrant rights nonprofit organization in East Boston.
I am proud to be part of the movement to keep the immigrant voice at the forefront of the conversation, both in the classroom and in the community at large. I am motivated by the humility and resilience of the immigrant community and other marginalized communities. Despite the struggles faced by many hardworking families, including my own, they have so much potential to do great things in this world. We can help change the narrative by listening to the stories of immigrant families and shedding light on their lives, their values and their contributions to society.
Last year I was given the opportunity to help lead a civic engagement campaign called Our Voices, Our Vote. I was also able to travel to the US/Mexico Border and the Northern Triangle in Central America in order to learn more about the root causes of immigration and the conditions that immigrants face in route to the United States. I was able to retrace the footsteps of millions of immigrants, including my parents, in order to be a better advocate here in Boston. I am ready to take all the knowledge I have gained and share it with the communities whom I wish to serve.
Boston is a hub for knowledge, innovation, education, ideas, history and diversity. We have some of the brightest minds, and our city is rapidly attracting new businesses and people from around the world. But will rapid growth mean rapid gentrification, or will it mean inviting marginalized communities to be part of that growth? Will we simply focus on students graduating from the highest ranked schools, or will we also invest in schools that need our attention? Will we welcome immigrants, or blame them for our problems?
There are not many cities in the United States that have as much human capital as Boston, so I hope that the city can take advantage of our resources and show the rest of the country the importance of investing in all people. When tourists come to Boston today, they come to learn about the birth of the United States. I want tourists one hundred years from now coming to visit Boston because of its place in history for being a welcoming city who invested in all people regardless of their nationalities, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.
What advice would you give to the aspiring leaders and changemakers among Boston's millennial population?
Find the right balance between confidence and humility. I want aspiring leaders to have the confidence to know that they deserve to accomplish all of their dreams. I want them to be confident in who they are and what each bring to the table. Regardless of their background or hardships, they should know that there are people like me who are always rooting for them. I think it is also important for them to never forget where they came from and the many people who fought to open doors for them. I want them to always give back to others because we don’t live in a zero-sum society. The more we can uplift each other the better off we will be as a community.
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.