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By DYS Assistant Commissioner Peter Forbes

Recently, Celtics guard Keyon Dooling met with DYS youth at the Metro Youth Service Center in Dorchester. Keyon spoke to them about his life experiences, from growing up in a rough neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, to becoming an NBA player. The impact and influence of young role models like Keyon are immeasurable for youth in our custody: it was clear on that Wednesday in February that Keyon‘s easy connection with the young people at Metro Youth Service Center would last well beyond his visit. Connections like these are essential to the work of DYS. Fortunately for the Department, Reverend Bob Gray of Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain is a friend and someone who recognizes the importance of these meaningful connections. 

Reverend Gray is an assistant pastor at Bethel AME and also serves as the chaplain of the Boston Celtics. His career as a juvenile probation officer, combined with his ministry, make him a unique supporter and friend to DYS. Reverend Gray has done an incredible job of selecting athletes who can effectively deliver the message to DYS kids that education and hard work is the pathway out of tough situations. Through Reverend Gray, Keyon is just one of a dozen local professional athletes who have visited DYS programs during the past five years. We are extremely grateful to Reverend Gray for his support.

During his visit, Keyon shared stories of his life, his family, his career and his faith. He talked about growing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and connected the importance of education to achieving success in life. He explained how he committed himself to studying in high school so he could get into college and have a chance at success in the future. Ultimately, Keyon attended the University of Missouri and was a part of the Mizzou Tigers Men’s Basketball team. He was drafted into the NBA following his sophomore season. This is Keyon’s 12th season in the NBA; he has been married for 10 years and has four children. Keyon spoke about the importance of family and the hard work of being a husband and a father. He also talked about motivation, decision making and peer association — and how all of these influences are integrated into reaching one’s goals and fulfilling one’s dreams. 

"This process [commitment to DYS] can be the best thing that ever happened to you.. you [can] use the time to reflect and set positive goals," Keyon informed the DYS audience. This was a particularly compelling message that the youth seemed willing to receive from Keyon more than from DYS staff or other adults who are part of  their daily lives.

The visit concluded with Keyon taking questions from the Metro Youth residents, autographing program basketballs and taking pictures with the youth. For youth committed to the Department, having someone like Keyon willing to take the time to talk to them about their own experiences reminds DYS youth that they matter and that everyone, regardless of circumstances, has the potential to succeed if they put in the work. Role models like Keyon Dooling are also living proof of how good decision making — including choices about who to associate with — is critical to achieving one’s goals.

We are indebted to Keyon, the other athletes and role models who have spoken to DYS youth about their experiences, and to Reverend Gray for bridging these important connections to our youth.  

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