By Juri Love
Boston, MA — In January 2018, Milagros ‘Milly’ Arbaje-Thomas became CEO of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity Inc. (METCO). Created in 1966, METCO provides opportunities for children from racially imbalanced schools in Boston and children from isolated suburban schools to learn together in an integrated public school setting.
In her new role, Arbaje-Thomas provides inspiration, leadership, and strives to take METCO beyond the task of urban student placement to the fulfillment of its vision.
“I’m a person who always believed in making a difference. This role gives me the opportunity to be a positive force. I work on initiatives providing educational opportunity, reducing racial barriers, and enriching the academic, personal, and interpersonal experiences of children and families in the city and suburbs,” she explained.
Her colleagues describe her as a visionary; she is an organized and detail-oriented leader with a tireless work ethic.
A seasoned executive with 15 years of managerial experience in anti-poverty programs, Arbaje-Thomas is no stranger to leadership. Originally from the Dominican Republic and the oldest child in an immigrant family, Milly had to pave the way for her siblings to see their own potential.
“My mother came to this country not speaking any English and having to start college all over again to become an accountant. She worked hard to put me through Catholic school. She saw something in me and made the necessary financial sacrifices to ensure I [could] get to where I am now,” Arbaje-Thomas recalled.
After her two daughters, Arbaje-Thomas is most inspired by social justice; she believes that any leader of color has a responsibility to stand up to issues of race and injustice, to be heard, and to open up opportunities for other underrepresented groups.”
“A few years ago, while I went through cancer treatment, I told myself I would only [resume] working full-time if my job was meaningful and had a significant impact across the Commonwealth and beyond,” she said. “METCO is exactly that! It’s not every day that one can work for a program that creates educational opportunity for students of color from urban neighborhoods and helps to close the achievement gap, [while] fighting racism.”
With the recent announcement of the FY2019 State budget yesterday, Arbaje-Thomas will be in an even better position to serve the commonwealth. As of July 30th, 2018, METCO will receive a $1.5 million budget increase due to the hard work of Arbaje-Thomas, METCO’s board and staff, and its community and legislative supporters.
The funds, available immediately, will aid late-day transportation so that METCO students can fully participate in sports, after-school activities, as well as meet other critical needs.
Arbaje-Thomas thanked the legislature, key legislative leaders, and Governor Charlie Baker for their support of METCO and its important programs.
“Though we have fought hard to be treated equally, there is so much more to be done,” she said. “As a Dominican immigrant with Lebanese roots, married to a Black and Filipino man, I hope to never forget the cultural richness that I personally bring to this job. And most importantly, I hope [to continue] opening doors and bringing opportunity to others.”
To learn more about METCO visit: metcoinc.org
Photo Description: Arbaje-Thomas visits with METCO legislative champion Jay Kaufman and thanks him for his tireless efforts in support of the program. (Courtesy of Milly Arbaje-Thomas)