Justin Pasquariello, Class of 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow, Children’s Health Watch
Attending the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C. in March 2010 was an incredible experience, near the end of an amazing fellowship and graduate program. Before going to graduate school, I founded Adoption and Foster Care Mentoring (AFC), a Boston-based organization that empowers foster youth to flourish through committed mentoring relationships and the development of critical life skills. Having been a foster youth myself, before being adopted at age nine, I knew personally the importance of that work.
After six years of building that organization, I remained committed to helping youth in foster care, but I also wanted to reduce the need for child welfare by helping a broader population, and to do my part to make this a more peaceful, happy, and sustainable world. As I sought to determine what path to take, the weekly co-curricular sessions I experienced as a Reynolds Fellow were a perfect place to consider multiple approaches to social change.
The International Achievement Summit provided a capstone for that exploration. So many of the leaders who addressed us inspired me with their humility and approachability. I was particularly inspired by Andy Stern’s efforts to provide hardworking people in lower wage professions with a platform from which to advocate for themselves.
To build my skill set, and diversify my work experience, I became a Consultant with the Bridgespan Group, a nonprofit consulting firm in Boston. I worked with a great group of committed people there, including several who had been Reynolds Fellows with me.
I am now the Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch, a research and policy group that identifies and shares information about children’s health and development policies. Billy Shore, who oversaw the co-curricular program during my fellowship, was a very helpful adviser as I made the decision to join Children’s HealthWatch.
Since 1998, Children’s HealthWatch has been collecting research about the positive impact of programs that help families meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and energy, and sharing these findings with leaders and policy makers at the local, state and federal level. In recent years, there have been more than 30 citations of our work each year in local and national media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Our founder has been called “the woman who saved SNAP,” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Our principal investigators have won a variety of awards, and delivered important testimony; one played a prominent role in the recent documentary A Place at the Table. I feel truly privileged to lead this group in work that furthers my goals of helping society’s most vulnerable, increasing their happiness, and their chances of success.
I am currently working on a book about my experiences in foster care and how the system can work, when everyone works in the best interest of the child. I continue to serve as Board Chair of AFC, the organization I founded, and am thrilled to see the organization’s continued growth under a great leader. I live in East Boston, one of my favorite places. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful wife, and great family and friends—including several with whom I was a Reynolds Fellow. I am very thankful for the myriad ways in which the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation and the Academy of Achievement led me to the work I am now doing.