Robert Lewis Jr. has been a driving force behind some of Boston’s signature programs aimed at inspiring urban youths.
In 2013, Lewis founded The BASE, a Roxbury-based organization that combines sports and college-readiness programs to give black and Latino children the tools to succeed. The organization has expanded to other cities, including Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis.
Lewis’s commitment to the community will be recognized Thursday by the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, which will honor him and nine others with the 2019 Shattuck Public Service Award. The awards, in their 34th year, celebrate Boston’s unsung heroes who serve as role models.
Lewis said he sees himself in the children he supports. Growing up with two teenage parents, he and his family relied upon welfare and public housing.
“You didn’t have certain opportunities that people had, so you made do,” Lewis said. “I know that if you give young folks in the neighborhood the same opportunities and you give them the same access, they will succeed.”
He emphasized the need for a narrative shift in the mind-set of people with power and privilege in the region. The Globe’s 2017 race series called attention to the low numbers of minorities in state politics and the business community.
“Why is it that there’s industries in Boston where there’s no black or brown [people]? Everyone thinks it’s the kids; it’s not the kids. I’ve got the kids, and they’re ready, and they’re waiting,” said Lewis. “What I have to do is shift the mind-set of people with privilege and power to see my kids as the future workforce.”
Lewis also helped develop Streetsafe Boston, the country’s only privately funded anti-gang program with a mission to reduce gun violence in Boston.
“It’s an honor for him and the hard work he’s put in, but I’m sure he’d be the first one to say that the award really rests on the shoulders of everyone around him,” said Lewis’s son, Stephen, general manager of Baseball and Softball at The BASE.
Lewis is one of two people receiving the Shattuck City Champion Award, recognizing business or nonprofit leaders who have significantly contributed to the Boston civic community.
The other champion winner is Bob Rivers, chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank. Under Rivers’s leadership, Eastern Bank has provided funding for the Business Equity Initiative program, which is focused on scaling up black and Latino businesses.
“A lot of the work these folks do is the foundation of the city’s success, and it’s important to make sure their hard work is being recognized and appreciated,” said Pam Kocher, who recently was named the first female president of the research bureau.
The other eight recipients, all city employees, are being honored with the Shattuck Public Service Award. The award recognizes those with dedicated public service to the community.
Jocelyne Aboujaoude, a public schools nurse for 22 years, is integral to her community because of the resources she brings, such as organizing a program that provided flu shots for the school staff.
Linda L. Collins-Mayo, a senior data processing systems analyst at the Boston Fire Department, is being honored for improving the efficiency of city record keeping as the department transitioned from paper-based record keeping.
Kerri Guerin, a police officer in the A1/A15 Community Service Office, worked on long-term solutions to support the city’s homeless population.
Linda Labadini, a police department clerk typist, is honored for her 32-year-and-counting commitment to the Boston Police Department and the East Boston community.
Jeff Lane, an environmental specialist, is being recognized for ensuring that the learning environment for Boston Public Schools’ 54,000 students remains safe and healthy.
Henry C. Luthin is being honored for his extensive knowledge and skills that help solve a number of complicated legal issues. He’s the first assistant corporation counsel at the law department in the City of Boston.
Deborah Samuels is an operations assistant coordinator for the Woods-Mullen Shelter for Women. She not only created a welcoming space for 1,600 women yearly who rely on the shelter, but also distributes donated clothes.
Jill Ochs Zick is the person behind the green spaces throughout Boston. She’s a landscape architect at the Boston Planning & Development Agency and helped develop the Tontine Crescent nestled in the curve of Franklin Street, making sure it was accessible to all regardless of mobility limitations.
The awards are named for Henry Lee Shattuck, a founding member of the research bureau who also served as a state representative and a Boston city councilor.