CC: My name is Christopher Conroy and I am a resident of Roxbury, MA. My focus and my reason for getting into this race is because of my background as a public educator; being from a family of educators. I care very deeply about educational issues that surround our schools and students because they are reflective of the health of our communities. Since this year is such a pivotal year for changes in our educational system, this campaign season will change the face of our city in terms of education in the next few years or the next 20 years. I want to make sure that there is a voice for parents, for students, and for teachers in the Boston City Council; and that we are creating policies and systems that will allow our schools, and our individual schools, to have real power in the decision making process for our education system.
CC:There are many issues that I am advocating for, but above all is to ensure that our city government takes on the youth unemployment crisis in our city. I think it is a silent crisis in many ways. We have more young people who are unemployed in our city’s history– 20,000 young people are out of school or out of work. What we need to be doing is making sure that we are recognizing the 18-24 year old age range as the centerpiece of our community from here on out. If we leave them behind then we are leaving our city behind – we are not allowing our neighborhoods to create wealth, strong companies, or a strong labor force in the future. This talent that will be the foundation for our city—the talent in our neighborhoods—is really getting left on the table.
So that is a major challenge that we need to take on. Another thing that I really want to address is poverty and economic inequality. We really need to address the social and emotional challenges that young people face before they enter our classrooms. [That’s a major breakdown in our educational system that has not been addressed] I want to highlight the effects that poverty has on our systems at large. I believe if we do not address the fact that we are not investing heavily in our resources—which will pull families out of poverty—then we are not addressing the health of our city.
So, I want to advocate for bringing new industries into our communities through agriculture and healthy foods. I want to build off the success we’ve been having with organic farming. I also want to make sure that we are connecting young people to industries in IT and finance, because these sectors are helping us grow jobs in our hospitals, private businesses, and universities.
CC: I have been an educator and community organizer for my whole career. I have organized parents, teachers, and a whole range of people to come and talk about large systemic issues that we have impacted our education sector. I have built a classroom from the inside-out as a special education teacher and I began my career in youth development. I have worked with the District Attorney’s office where I interned with the federally funded Safe Neighborhood Initiative, which I have met with community members to talk about relationships between the law enforcement and the community. As I have gone through my career as an educator, and community organizer, I have collaborated with Boston’s neighborhoods and allowed them to see how government can change both internally and externally. You can get the job done in a classroom whether it is increasing student achievement or building on a better central office. I have got the chance to work with a lot of professionals and community members and created partnerships with them between schools.
They have connected many life skills and training to employment and education. What really qualifies me as a City Councilor At-Large are my wide variety of intergovernmental positions; and, the fact that I’ve brought many different groups together to work on complex problems in our city.
The great thing about being a City Councilor At-Large is the fact that it is the most impactful community organizing seat in Boston. So, if we need to address an issue, I can call a hearing at anytime I want. I can bring the voices of Boston to city hall and that is what I want to do; and have been doing. Most people think our government is a taxing and spending government, but there is another power that is often ignored which is the power to convene, the power to bring people together.
Prince: Tell me a personal story that has inspired you to run for office?
CC: Every time I get to know somebody, I get a better understanding of who they are. In my mind I can connect those stories together and see how many great opportunities that this city can have. One story that comes to mind is a story that my Mom told me when I was young. It really shaped my view of government and leadership.
One of the most pivotal moments in recent Boston history was the court-ordered busing of students across the city with the goal of achieving racial equity in education. During my mother’s first few years of teaching, there has been a huge amount of issues with busing: buses would not show up; people would be throwing rocks at the buses; rocks at the classroom windows; students hiding under the desks; students taking over the school building each day; etc. So, for my Mom, it was a very chaotic environment in her first year as a teacher. However, what she told me, and why I will always cherish this, is: “No matter what; you have to keep calm and take care of your students–make sure that they are okay to learn.”
The reason why I have that memory of her telling me that story, and why I am running for City Council, is because of the philosophy of caring for who is in front of you. There were a lot of people who stuck it out; and some of their stories will never be told. However, those people still cared for those who were right in front of them–whether it be their students, their neighbors, or anyone who needed safety and shelter. That is the sentiment that I bring to this campaign. Policies are very important, but they don’t function unless people come together and make it work. Leadership is really about doing the right thing with the people that you have right in front of you each and every day.
CC: The promises that I hope to keep, and will keep as City Councilor At-Large, is to put our young people first; our working families first; our senior citizens and folks that are mostly marginalized in our city first. I still want to continue the good works that our city has been doing, but I want to make sure that those people are taken care of and supported for—I want to continue to be a champion for them.
I’m also committed to be a good financial steward for the city and make sure that our city’s budget is balanced. I want to make sure that we are using resources wisely, but willing to go beyond the budget. I understand the responsibilities of managing our budget, but I want to get beyond the constraints of it and discover other ways to connect our resources together; so we can serve the communities with the greatest needs.
So for me I want to keep my promise to meet with every single person I can, across all of our neighborhoods. I want to meet with every neighborhood association and any community leader. I am absolutely committed towards making sure that city hall reaches to our communities; and that our communities reach out to city hall. We can do this through technology and good old-fashion community organizing. I want and I will promise to be a person that helps keep city hall mobile and accessible to everyone. I am really passionate about the future of our young adults and I am committed to making sure that we are creating the best education-employment system possible for them.
Prince: As City Councilor At-Large, what would you do to attract people, from all over the world, to come to Boston and invest in their American Dream?
CC: One of the reasons why Boston attracts so many people from all over the world is because of our education and employment sector. Personally speaking, if I know that I can get those two things, it will lead to a better life. Those two things will allow me to build a home and support my family–essentially to build a life. I am reminded of a student of mine from Rwanda who immigrated to Boston with little money and worked at a sunglasses hut for the first few months–he was working very hard to make his rent. However when he learned about an internship program, that would provide him technical training and financial assistance within one year, he was able to put himself into an internship at a great financial organization. He is now earning a family sustaining wage because of his access to this program.
That’s the type of story that I want people to understand: if we think differently about education; think differently on how you create partnerships between our “education–employment” sectors; and think differently on how we can bridge private industries and public resources together, we give anybody an opportunity to create a stable life here in Boston. From somebody who had great grandparents that migrated from Ireland and planted deep family roots in Boston, I want to make sure that people have that same access too. We have over 100 languages spoken in our Boston Public Schools.
We are in the top 10 of cities nation-wide in terms of the percentages of foreign-born residents. So we need to have systems in place, and new ones, to support that Boston population growth.
Prince: Tell me an embarrassing story–on or off the campaign–that has reminded you that you are still human.
CC: (Laughing) An embarrassing story from the campaign trail, was when I was door knocking in Hyde Park. I spoke to a great lady in Hyde Park and she offered me to put my sign on her front yard. And so a week later, I went over to her house to put up the sign and I was confronted by her mother. Her mother came to the front door and yelled at me because I was putting the sign on her front yard. What I realized was that the mother’s daughter did not tell her that I was coming to the house and essentially what we had was an example of miscommunication. (Laughing) I got cursed out at the side of the road and I was embarrassed because there were people around me. That moment showed the human side of life because communication is key in establishing any relationship including politics. So you can say that I didn’t communicate with all the constituents in the household! (Laughing)
Prince: Lastly in your own words what makes Christopher Conroy so interesting? CC: I do not know if there is anything in particular that makes me interesting. I think what makes anybody interesting is how interested they are in other people. For me I enjoy talking about other people’s careers; their jobs; their desires and hopes for their future and families. I really enjoy getting to know people personally and connect them to different resources. My story is really wrapped up in a lot of other people’s stories; and I know that I am part of a bigger net of people that have helped me have a great life.
The only interesting thing about me that I can think of is that I am really interested in other people’s stories.
If you wish to learn more about Christopher Conroy and his platforms, go to: www.conroy4boston.com