The 2023 Waterfront Ambassadors season wrapped up last week after a fifth successful summer season. Throughout the summer, ten teens employed by The Trustees Boston Waterfront Initiative program learned about waterfront issues in and around their neighborhoods and communities and worked with local non-profits and environmental organizations in Greater Boston.
In 2023 the program once again ran for seven weeks in July and August and incorporated a variety of job-readiness and other enrichment sessions in addition to community projects.
Emily Castro, Assistant Program Manager for the Waterfront Ambassadors program, began her tenure with the Trustees as an Ambassador four years ago, and returned for her fifth summer, now as a staff member. Learn more about the program and about Emily in the interview below, and by visiting onewaterfront.org.
I hear you were a Waterfront Ambassador for four years prior to becoming the Assistant Program Manager. Why did you join the Waterfront Ambassadors Program? What has made you stay?
Every year is a new experience. After my first summer with the Waterfront Ambassadors, I knew what climate change was, but I never took into account how much it impacts me, and this program continues to help me understand that. Although some activities have remained the same from summer to summer, many things have changed. Going from an in-person program, to Zoom, to in-person again was a challenge. Each time I returned, I thought I would know what to expect, but I didn’t. I learn more each year.
It finally comes down to, why did I stay after all these years? East Boston is a place that a lot of people don’t know about, except that it’s the home of Logan Airport. I’ve grown as a person and built character because of this program, whether that is being more confident to do outreach in the community, or public speaking. The Waterfront Ambassador Program is more than understanding climate change and doing outreach in the community; it is a program that feels like a family, where bonds are created and continue to flourish, even when the program ends.
What excites you about the Piers Park III project and The Trustees work in East Boston?
Not knowing what Piers Park was, it was eye opening for me when I found out there was another park besides Airport Park in East Boston. Piers Park III provides an opportunity for the community to share their ideas about what they’d like to see in a park. It is interesting hearing everyone’s ideas and to see how they light up at the opportunity to say what they want out of a park, instead of it being completed without community input. The Trustees’ work related to Piers Park III gives hope to the community. I’m excited to see what Piers Park III will look like and I am looking forward to being there one day and saying, “I can’t believe It’s finally here, after the thousands of surveys, it is finally our park.”
When it comes to community engagement and outreach, what are you most passionate about?
I am very passionate about letting the East Boston community know that their voices are heard. We can’t change the past, but we can provide an opportunity for residents to have a voice and to share what they want as a community.
What are some of your favorite memories as an ambassador? From this year?
As many of my peers could tell you, throughout my time as an Ambassador, one of my favorite memories is making pesto from local community garden resources. The recipe has become something I enjoy making outside of the program.
This year, we also had the opportunity to go to Crane Beach. It was my first time visiting the property since I joined the program when it started. The beach was beautiful, the experience was informative, and a lot of friendships were made that day among the Ambassadors.
What is it like returning to the program in a leadership role, and as a staff member?
Going from an Ambassador to a Leader Ambassador, to becoming the Assistant Manager has given me the opportunity to grow as a person, and given me the chance to develop my leadership even after the program ended.
As the Assistant Manager, I hold more responsibility than I had when I was an Ambassador Leader. With this role, I have learned how to be patient, understanding, and how to transition to being involved in a new way, watching the Ambassadors take on the same challenges I had in the past. Besides the character development, I also feel prepared every year to be a role model.
What would you tell folks who don’t know anything about Piers Park III? Why should they be excited about the project?
The reason why the Piers Park III project is so important is because we are taking this historic East Boston site and turning it into an interactive waterfront park, developed with community input. Piers Park III will also be resilient, built to sustain impacts from sea-level rise that is projected to affect the East Boston community, including homes, parks, community centers, and gardens in the surrounding area.
Do you have a favorite Trustees property besides PPIII?
My favorite would be the Nightingale Community Garden in Dorchester. It is one of the biggest gardens I’ve ever seen. Considering that Dorchester is an area where redlining impacts the community, having a garden and produce for those who cannot afford fresh food is needed.
What is your future beyond your role here at the Trustees?
I am studying to become a biomedical engineer. I am a rising sophomore with a major in mathematics and a minor in computer science.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at work?
When I am not at work, I enjoy doing independent studies, such as learning calculus or physics. I enjoy walks outside, listening to music, and visiting places I’ve never been before or want to go again with family and friends.