SheShinesOn…Ayele Shakur, BUILD


Regional Executive Director for BUILD Boston

Launched BUILD in Boston in 2010

Grew up in Roxbury, MA, where she currently resides

Responsible for setting the vision and strategy for BUILD’s work in Boston, working with the Local Advisory Board, and generating financial support

Q: You’ve had a significant career in education. What did you do before launching BUILD?

Prior to coming to BUILD, I served as President and CEO of my own nonprofit, the Boston Learning Center, for 15 years. Under my leadership, the Center expanded from serving 100 students annually in Boston to 700 students across the state of Massachusetts. When I heard that BUILD was coming to Boston, I was so compelled by it’s mission and programs that I new I had to lead the Boston launch.

Q: What job or training best prepared you to work here?

I bring over two decades of experience as an innovator in urban education. I taught for eleven years in the Los Angeles area and in the Boston Public Schools, and co-authored the book Boost School Performance – A Parent’s Guide to Better Grades Fast. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Boston University and a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

Q: Tell us about your experience living and working in Roxbury.

I’m a child of the 60’s who grew up in Roxbury, Mass. My father was a successful defense attorney and although we had the financial means to move out to the suburbs like many middle class Black families, he firmly believed that the best way to impact a community is to stay, walk among the people, and be a living example of the change you want to create.

Today I carry on my father’s legacy. I’m proud to live in Roxbury, to work with students from Boston’s “inner city”, to spot them at the neighborhood supermarket and to worship beside them at Sunday service. The work that I do with young people is deeply personal because their community is my community. I live here, I raised my son here, and their success is my success.

Q: What would the world be like without BUILD?

You cannot drive down any street in Roxbury, Dorchester, or Mattapan without being struck by the lack of economic growth and advancement. Education is the way up and out of poverty and oppression. But along with education, our young people need to understand economics, financial literacy, and access to capital. In America, these are the engines of growth and change. That’s why I’m so excited about BUILD.

BUILD’s mission is to use entrepreneurship to excite and propel disengaged, low-income students through high school to college success. In an age where 80% of high school dropouts say they left school because they were bored and didn’t see the relevance of school in their daily lives, BUILD blends hands on real-world learning, entrepreneurship education, and academic support that gets results. Our students launch real businesses with bank accounts and investors, and we surround them with mentors, tutors, and academic advisors to help them chart a brighter course. We work with students who are both disadvantaged and disengaged – the ones many people have given up on, who are most at risk for failing and dropping out of high school. Not only do BUILD students beat the odds to graduate from high school, but they go on to succeed in college with the skills and self-efficacy needed to persist towards earning a degree.

As one student put it, “BUILD teaches me to take risks, to be even more creative, and connect with others on a business level. It opens doors for me. BUILD is giving me the tools I need to get to college and win. It’s teaching me to build my own business and how to BUILD a better life.”

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