Mattapan’s Rashad Cope, director of the Wheelock College and Mattahunt Community Center, graduated from Wheelock College in May with a master’s degree in Educational Studies and a Graduate Certificate in Organizational Leadership.
The 31-year-old said that community centers like the one he now leads played a big role in his childhood growing up in Roxbury. His mother, Cherie Cope, was the administrative coordinator at the Shelburne Community Center and other community centers in Mattapan. Cope grew up spending a lot of time shadowing his mom and looking at the work she did.
“My mother has been the cornerstone of my life,” said Cope. “She has done an incredible job both being an administrative director and getting support from my god-mother and step mother raising my two other brothers and me.”
After the city-run Mattahunt Community Center shutdown in 2010 during a cycle of budget cut, Jackie Jenkins-Scott, President of Wheelock College, made a decision that Wheelock would partner with the city of Boston to re-open up the Center.
With support and guidance from the a community advisory board, the Center reopened in 2011 equipped with new facilities, including a pool, a basketball court, athletic fields, and a new computer center with wireless access. Cope was hired to run the revitalized center.
“The experience here at the community center and working for Wheelock has been an incredible experience,” said Cope. “It has given me the opportunity to reconnect with the community on a leadership level. We have been trying endlessly to ensure that every program we have here has a strong focus on academics and education,” added Cope.
Cope, who is one of three brothers born as triplets, is the first in his family to graduate from college.
“It’s not that every black male needs to go on and graduate college. My brothers and I went through different experiences,” said Cope. “But those experiences have driven me to try and figure out how I can work with other young males to debunk some of the myths about black males getting a college education.”
Cope understands that mentoring and family support programs are very important to keeping youth on track. He is the father of a 10 year-old himself, Tabaj.
“Tabaj continues to keep me grounded, focused and determined keeps to continue to the work I do and achieve the things that I am destined to achieve,” said Cope.
The success of the Mattahunt Community Center and has been one of Cope’s biggest accomplishments.
“I’ve never been an ‘I’ person. It’s certainly been a collective effort,” said Cope.
The Mattahunt Community Center has partnered with over 35 different organizations offering different programs for children and adults, he said. This summer Cope is looking forward to the centers PUSH Academy program.
“PUSH is a concept we’ve made in pushing youth and young adults towards achievements,” said Cope. The program was introduced two years ago and it gives middle school students a focus around college awareness and financial literacy awareness.
Cope also looks forward to the P.A.C.E program, which focuses on cultural education through the arts, athletics and academics.
“It’s incredible to know that parents want learning programs for their kids over the summer as well as enrichment, arts and sports, which we offer here at the Mattahut Community Center,” said Cope.
Cope is passionate about working with young males of color to ensure that they have equal access in educational opportunities especially when graduating from high school and transitioning into college.
Now that Cope has graduated from Wheelock, he plans to further his education through an independent study of black males in urban education. Cope’s greatest passion is to raise the potential, education, and achievement of urban youth.
For more information on summer events at the Mattahunt Community Center contact the Mattahunt Center at 617-635-5159.