"I stand here before you as the New Executive Director of the YMCA Achievers and the very first proud Latino to hold this position. Even though I am new to the role I am old to the Y, between 1995 to 2006 I was a program volunteer working with gang involved youth, in 1997 I became the director of the Egleston sq. youth center, and then finally before this position in 2002, I became the Associate Executive Director of the Roxbury YMCA.

But what you don’t know is that my journey began as a high school dropout because I was illiterate with an inability to read and write. Since I could not fill out job applications,  I was always in trouble.  I had more court appearances then Lindsey Lohan, and I would learn how my younger brother would be killed in a shoot –out with Boston Police officers from my 6 x 9 cell in 1990.

The after math of his death moved the YMCA to take action and open the Egleston Square YMCA Youth Center as a response to my brother’s tragedy.  

From 1998 – 2005, I would sit in the Charles Street jail awaiting trial for crimes that I committed against our Commonwealth. I was sentenced to a 10 year sentence while still a young boy, and I was released to a society that would look down on the man or should I say Ex-Con unfavorably. 

It would be inside that Egleston Youth Center where I would find my refuge, a place to go and grow, a place where a young-man like me with a troubled past was seen as an asset and not a liability. 

Where I was encouraged to explore my natural abilities to reach the unreachable, where I was mentored, groomed, and trained to become first a youth worker and then as the director of the youth center. Only in the Y can a gang leader become a community leader. Under the faith that the Y had in me I was able to launch a capital campaign and grow this tiny youth center into a multi-generational facility with a program portfolio measured on an outcome based approach. The Y changed my life, so that I can change the lives of others.  I have always honored the Y for taking a chance on me, but if you look deep into the heart of the Y mission you will learn that the Y has always been the place where providing chances is the operating expectation of this organization.

17 years later I have traveled the world because of my work. I have conquered college twice with Bachelors and Masters Degrees.  I have won national awards as an emerging leader, and am a recognized expert on youth development.  A homeowner, husband and most importantly I am the Dad that I never had to four incredible children. But I also live my life through a personal mission statement and that is; “To be the person that was not there for me.”

At our recent event, I looked at this distinguished class of Achievers and saw some amazing individuals who share my kindred spirit….. joining me in being that person --- for a deserving youth or family, who just wants someone to be there for them.

To be there- to help them figure out life’s challenges as they come.

To be a committed adult that is caring, and consistent. 

To be someone that reflects them in every way and provides them with a tangible model of success.  

Youth and families cannot achieve if we don’t put Achievers in their path, thank you to the class of 2011 for honoring your commitment and making a real difference, and I welcome the class of 2012.  I look so forward to being your partner as we jump onto the path of achievement together to make it possible for young people to believe they can achieve anything. "

- Will Morales, Executive Director of YMCA Achievers and the Egleston Square Youth Center