Alumna Theresa O’Bryant has been dedicated to Agassiz Village since she started as a camper in 1975. Nearly five decades later, we are grateful she has stayed involved as Agassiz Village continues to be a huge part of her life.
Theresa had been to other summer camps before but at the age of 13 her family was looking for a summer camp that all her siblings and cousins could attend. One of her cousins was physically challenged and at the time Agassiz Village was accessible for all kids.
She would head up to Agassiz Village in the summers to have fun and get out of Mattapan. Her parents knew getting out of Boston in the summers would be beneficial for their kids. Theresa went from camper, to Counselor-in-Training, to Cabin Counselor, to volunteer, to Alumni Committee Vice President, to Board Member, and now most recently Board President.
“I think I worked at Agassiz for nine years over the summers. Those experiences at Agassiz taught me how to be a leader, and it taught me how to take initiative and how to help others and I value that,” said O’Bryant.
You’ll often hear O’Bryant say, “I’m just a girl from Mattapan.”
That girl from Mattapan now holds an undergraduate degree in business, a master’s degree in business, and a law degree. She spent time as a public defender before being appointed as the Dean of Student Success and Engagement at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where she works today. “I probably would have never gone to college, if it wasn’t for Agassiz village. I wouldn’t have known I could have accomplished so much,” said O’Bryant.
To this day, O’Bryant counts many of her best friends, people she met at Agassiz Village and credits the program with helping to make her what she is today. “At a very young age, they gave us opportunities to lead in a positive way with guidance. You get a chance to try things and test your metal. And you don’t get that chance in your youth a lot especially given this opportunity with a safety net and guidance. You get to see you can do some things,” said O’Bryant.
O’Bryant loved having the opportunity to lead a group of kids in song or through a swimming lesson, where children would get a chance to be silly, have fun and do something they can’t do at home.
“Home is so serious. Home is so stressful. There are not resources. But at Agassiz Village, a kid gets a chance to be a kid whether they are 10 years old or 16 and that means a lot. I was one of those kids and I like having the opportunity to do it for others,” said O'Bryant.
When you ask O’Bryant why giving kids the opportunity to attend Agassiz Village so important she’ll say, “I just think it’s a really cool opportunity to give kids the chance to walk on soft dirt roads and see some things that they have never seen before. We have kids at camp that think they are going to meet lions, tigers and bears. I have never seen a bear. Maybe they are here, but I have never seen one. They might see a deer. They might see some turkeys. They might see some loons in the lake and not know what they are. They’ll think they are ducks. So, I’ll do everything I can do to make sure kids have the opportunity, whether it’s to donate money myself or get others to donate, so that some other kid from Mattapan…or Malden, or Lynn or Lawrence or wherever can have the same chance to get out of the city and learn some new things, walk on some soft dirt roads, and have the opportunity to change their world and their perspective and their trajectory.”
These opportunities to try things you might never otherwise get a chance to do can change a child’s life.
“It helps kids to take more risks, try new things, and helps inform their world. I think kids deserve an opportunity to see things outside of what’s immediately in front of them. A lot of our kids don’t get that chance.”