BOSTON (CBS) – While New England has made great gains in terms of equality, there is still a stark divide in terms of economic opportunity and education.

The African-American dropout rate in Massachusetts is 3.2%, compared to 1.1% for whites. The African-American unemployment rate in Massachusetts is 7.1%, while the white unemployment rate is 2.7%. In terms of poverty, the white poverty rate in the Bay State is 8.2% while the African-American poverty rate is 20.6%.

Boston is a hub of economic activity, but not always opportunity, which is where Ayele Shakur comes in.

Ayele Shakur is the founder and first Regional Executive Director of BUILD: Greater Boston.

“We work with amazing young people who want to learn how to start real businesses and want to become real entrepreneurs,” Shakur said.

BUILD gives disadvantaged Boston students the tools to become entrepreneurs through skills in building and mentoring.

Her drive for equality was instilled by her parents, and her father’s work as a Boston civil rights attorney.

Shakur says her father was, “really passionate about leveling the playing field and promoting justice and equal opportunity for all people of color in Boston”.

The Boston University graduate, with a Master’s Degree from Harvard, believes mentorship is an essential step to a brighter future.

Which is why BUILD works to groom students in some of the city’s lowest performing schools, to be ready to step into Boston’s impressive corporate landscape.

“What we’re really doing is helping young people realize how much they belong,” Shakur said.

A world that may not always seem welcoming to people of color, Shakur admitted.

“We don’t just say that you belong in the board rooms of Bain Capital Ventures, we bring you to the boardroom. They go in with a lot of trepidation, and they look around and say, ‘well I don’t see a lot of people who look like me here,’ but we make sure they know that they can actually change that.”

Shakur says that on the receiving end, companies have gone beyond “lip service” when it comes to providing an open door to opportunity.

“If we can play a role in helping to open those doors and create those cross-lines of communication and sharing, I think that’s a great role for us to play,” Shakur said.

Paul Burton


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