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Rebecca Obounou ’06: Service Calls
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Rebecca (Roseme) Obounou ’06 knew even as a young girl that her mission would be to help those less fortunate. That commitment recently helped to earn the alumna a 2010 Achievers Award from the YMCA of Greater Boston.
“I am humbled,” Obounou says of the honor. “I felt like I must be dreaming. This is a big deal.”
The YMCA Achievers program fosters a college-bound culture among 12- to 18-year olds in the Boston area. Award winners such as Obounou agree to volunteer 40 hours over a 10-month period to the agency’s programs for educational enrichment. They assist with initiatives such as the Young Achievers Summer Institute for eighth- to 10th-graders, sharing expertise on job search protocol and similar topics.
Obounou was nominated for the Achievers Award by her manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she coordinates programs for Sloan School Executive Education. Her own application to be considered for the recognition described an extensive record of community service. Of particular note: a nonprofit that Obounou founded to help startup companies and provide jobs in Haiti, where she lived for a number of years during her parents’ service as missionaries.
Education is a prime means for improving prospects among underserved members of society, according to Obounou. That belief stretches back to her Bentley days and service–learning learning projects such as an after-school mentoring program in Waltham. Her work included creating a program that enlisted Service-Learning Center student project managers to coordinate the service component of courses offered by participating Bentley professors. She designed and implemented the mentoring program with the Grafton (Mass.) branch of Job Corps, a free career-centered education and training program for young adults.
Obounou credits Bentley for widening her own professional prospects. Her BS in Management put her in the running for several positions, and a fellow graduate provided the referral for her current job. What's more, during a semester’s study in Paris in 2004, she met the man who would become her husband four years later.
Amid her own personal successes, Obounou never loses sight of those who lack opportunities or guidance. She invests time in young people “because they are the future. I know what it’s like to need help and not find it. I want to help young teens achieve their goals while learning the importance of always giving back.”
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.