Q & A with Blackstone School Alumnus, Joel Zayas

Located in South End neighborhood of Boston, the Blackstone Innovation School serves nearly 600 diverse students from Pre-Kindergarten to 5th grade.  Teachers, staff, families and community partners work together to foster a set of core values in the school community: respect, unity, and excellence.

Blackstone School has come a long way and we are striving for even greater heights of academic excellence for our students. Still wondering why you should do your part? Let Blackstone School alumnus Joel Zayas and donor to Friends of Blackstone School tell you why…

You attended Blackstone School in the early 1990s. What was the school like then?

During those days there was an intense rivalry between two close neighborhoods, Cathedral and the Villa Victoria projects, and Blackstone School was in the middle of those neighborhoods. The School was a safe zone.

Are you speaking of the violence in the neighborhood?

Even at such an early age, around the fourth and fifth grade, you knew who was from where. Looking back at those days, it seems strange that kids that young would be aware of such things, but that’s just how it was.

What do you remember about your time at Blackstone School in the 1990s?

Although Blackstone School seems daunting and fort-like from the outside, its appearance can also portray the feeling that the people inside are well protected. And it was just that.  However, during my time there in the 1990s, education didn’t feel like a priority. It felt like the curriculum was structured for students just to get by and move on.

Getting by, what do you mean?

During school hours it felt like we were just passing time. There weren’t any creative learning experiences. For example, I know the school had a greenhouse, but we never went in there. I always thought it looked cool, but that was about it.

Joel, you are the Digital Media Developer at Sametz Blackstone Associates, which has been generous to the Blackstone School. Sametz, a business located in the South End, designed the School’s new logo last year and its website. We will be designing new signage for the school and with a generous contribution toward the production and installation costs, we will help improve the school’s appearance offering a more welcoming atmosphere to its exterior. My company’s generosity inspired me to make a gift of my own to support the School. 

Thank you, Joel. Why is it important for you to give back to Blackstone School?

Personally, I’d like to give back by volunteering at the school either through teaching kids art or working with computers. I am grateful that I was introduced to computers at an early age while I attended Blackstone School. The computer classes weren’t designed to teach me fundamental computational skills, but I think it helped influence my work in technology today. If I am able to influence just one kid that in itself would be improving the community we live in.