Foxborough’s METCO Director Jesenia Castro spoke with cable access host Bob Hickey, alongside METCO, Inc. CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas. Their conversation ranged from the benefits and struggles experienced by Boston families who take the bus out and back, to a call for the town to get involved and support the students and cherish the impact of the historic program. As Milly put is:
“If you are in the METCO community, you have to be better than every other community out there, because of what we are part of: something so unique, something so historical, something so deep. I mean, we’re one of seven school desegregation programs still alive in the entire United States today, and we’re the largest. So if school committees are signing on the dotted line that they’re going to be a METCO community, that’s step number one: accept these students into our towns. And then what’s next? What can we do in deeper and more intentional ways? We have to be better about teacher diversity. We have to be better by integrating our students in all the entire experience of a school. We have to figure out ways to bring our families together, look at curriculum bias, our instruction, teacher diversity. There are so many things. The lens that you should have is, how can I be better?”
METCO’s CEO spoke with Juri Love of Color Magazine about how her life experience influences METCO’s evolving vision. Milly Arbaje-Thomas immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a child, and watched her mother overcome the language barrier and work tirelessly to put Milly through Catholic School in Lynn, Massachusetts. Now, she shares that dedication to her children’s education with the thousands of other METCO parents: her two children attend school in Brookline through METCO.
Milly draws on a range of her life experiences to connect with METCO’s mission:
As a Dominican immigrant with Lebanese roots, married to a Black and Filipino man, I hope to never forget the cultural richness that I personally bring to this job. And most importantly, I hope [to continue] opening doors and bringing opportunity to others.
Taking on the leadership role in METCO wasn’t an easy choice, amid personal and health challenges. But, as she tells Color Magazine, the vision was too meaningful to pass up:
A few years ago, while I went through cancer treatment, I told myself I would only [resume] working full-time if my job was meaningful and had a significant impact across the Commonwealth and beyond. METCO is exactly that! It’s not every day that one can work for a program that creates educational opportunity for students of color from urban neighborhoods and helps to close the achievement gap, [while] fighting racism.
Read her whole interview with Color Magazine here.
The Boston Globe’s Meghan E. Irons profiled incoming METCO CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas, stressing the widened social impact that she hopes will define her vision for the organization’s next 50 years. Following the retirement of 43-year executive director Jean Maguire in 2016, the Board of Directors selected Arbaje-Thomas to help METCO become a “more mature and dynamic organization,” according to Board President Charles E. Walker, Jr.
“I don’t want to [just] place students in the [suburban] districts,” she tells Irons. “I want to have relationships with the districts. I want to be that voice for the children. I see METCO, Inc. as a center of gravity for the work that is happening in the districts.”
Her ambitious fundraising aspirations, which will be abetted by a newly assembled Board and Boston-area institutions that are already filling up her calendar with meetings, will allow the small administrative staff to expand in effectiveness and ambition.
“We’ve come this far,” she says. “We’ve made progress. But how much better can we be?”