New board chief charts ambitious course for College Bound program

Sean Curran: Longtime volunteer will take the helm as College Bound Dorchester’s principal board chairman this month. 	Photo courtesy College Bound DorchesterSean Curran: Longtime volunteer will take the helm as College Bound Dorchester’s principal board chairman this month. Photo courtesy College Bound DorchesterA change in leadership at College Bound Dorchester, one of the city’s leading organizations targeting at-risk kids and teens, will soon elevate a veteran volunteer and seasoned fundraiser into a key role. Sean Curran, who has served on the CBD board since 2001, will take over as principal chairman for the group’s board of directors this month.

Curran, 44, is a Sudbury resident with roots in the city’s South End. A BC High and Boston College graduate, Curran runs Waterville Consulting, a lobbying and fundraising firm. He has been a key advisor to Governor Deval Patrick’s political committee and is wired to many of the Commonwealth’s biggest donors— an asset that will help Curran achieve his chief goal: helping College Bound Dorchester grow its capacity to reach more kids in neighborhoods like Bowdoin-Geneva.

“While there have been a lot of positive changes made to College Bound Dorchester, a lot of challenges remain,” says Catherine Donaher, a Dorchester native who has led the CBD board for the last seven years. “Sean is the right chair at this time to grow and meet CBD’s goals as he has all the qualities needed to succeed: determination, dedication and devotion to the students of Dorchester.”

Donaher— and the CBD’s present executive director Mark Culliton— are widely credited for leading the organization through a harrowing transformation over the last decade. Known as Federated Dorchester Neighborhood Houses since its launch in 1965, the non-profit once teetered on the brink of outright financial collapse. The group rebranded itself as College Bound Dorchester in 2009 and has set out to focus its mission on targeting underserved kids from the most troubled neighborhoods of Boston by putting them on a track to complete college. College Bound Dorchester is based in Bowdoin-Geneva, but also runs programs at the Little House in Columbia-Savin Hill and on the campus of St. Mark’s parish. They serve adolescents and young adults, ages 14 to 27, “who have been pushed out or are in danger of dropping out of school and provides them with academic, social and emotional support with the help of mentors from the community.” These mentors— dubbed College Readiness Advisors (CRA)— work with individual students straight through their college graduation. Over the last three years, the approach has begun to show results: More than 100 CBD students have enrolled in college with a 42 percent graduation rate.

“I am incredibly grateful for the leadership Catherine has demonstrated,” said Curran. “She turned a struggling non-profit around and allowed us to make a difference. I am humbled to be chosen to succeed her and look forward to continuing the work she began. I can only say that I am grateful to her and for this opportunity to make a bigger difference.”

Curran says he hopes to use his tenure as board chairman to boost the organization’s reach into the Dorchester and surrounding communities.
“We don’t have the appropriate scale we need to have the impact we want to in order to transform these neighborhoods,” said Curran.

Mark Culliton, the Dorchester resident who has run the operations of CBD since 2010, says Curran has the “passion and commitment” that the group needs to ramp up its fundraising and expand.

“Sean knows it’s about providing resources to allow us to serve more students,” said Culliton. “He is a committed advocate and advisor.

The organization was going through pretty incredible change for the past two years. Now we know what we’re doing and we’re expanding and we have to have a board really focused on providing focus.

“Its great for Sean’s skill-set, which he’s proven already. He gets people excited about our mission and get them to buy in and invest in our work,” said Culliton.

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