Jaissa Feliz, 2017
Fellowship: Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation
Graduate School: Tufts
Post Fellowship: Jaissa took a position at Beacon Communities post-Fellowship.
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Fellow Profile

Please tell us a little about your background and what drove you to apply to be a Kuehn Fellow.

I myself grew up in affordable housing in Boston, and that experience has shaped the trajectory of my life and the lives of my family members in a positive way. This firsthand experience, deep connection to my city of Boston and commitment to promoting equity and socioeconomic advancement for Boston’s low-income residents is what inspired me to pursue a professional career in affordable housing development, and the Kuehn Fellowship provides the perfect opportunity to get a jumpstart in this field.

What has been a favorite project, accomplishment or learning so far?

My favorite part of my experience here has been being involved in the Uphams Corner planning process. This planning process is the city’s first neighborhood-based planning process following Boston’s 2030 housing report. The idea is to revitalize Uphams Corner as an “arts and innovation” district, anchored by the historic Strand Theater. In this context, there is a lot of exciting change coming to the Uphams Corner area, which is the physical heart of Dorchester Bay’s work.

All these initiatives have resulted in a flurry of community process activity that Dorchester Bay has been strategically engaging in, and it has been fascinating to experience the intersection of interests, missions and political motivation that comes with so much stakeholder involvement, including the city of Boston’s BPDA and Office of Arts and Culture, DSNI, Uphams Corner Main Streets and Dorchester Bay.

What’s something people don’t know about the community (or communities) you work in?

People often think of low-income communities of color as communities that lack in resources – economic, political, educational, etc. What people don’t know is that these communities are asset rich in ways that are not traditionally defined, but which are nonetheless equally if not more valuable. These communities are rich in resilience, in community power and advocacy, in solidarity and in compassion.  The residents at Dorchester Bay properties across Dorchester exemplified this community power in their initiative and community organizing following the destruction and loss in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria in October 2017. Many residents are of Puerto Rican descent and were directly impacted by the hurricane through loss of family members or homes. Immediately following the news of the hurricane, resident associations from two different properties representing a total of almost 200 units mobilized to form a drive to collect food and other relief items to send to Puerto Rico. Residents also provided emotional support to one another through this difficult time.  In just a week’s time, residents were able to collect over 100 cans of food in addition to many other items such as clothing and candles, totaling dozens of boxes of relief item shipments.

Anything else you’d like to add about your experience as a Kuehn Fellow?

I am so grateful for the opportunity for this fellowship experience. Without it, I don’t know that I would have been able to get my foot in the door in the affordable housing development world straight out of graduate school.

Feliz, Jaissa