This article originally appeared in the Summer 2022 Dana Hall Bulletin.
Marynee Pontes ’12 remembers the surprise that registered when she approached a table at a college volunteer fair. Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) was an organization she’d been involved with as a girl mentee. Now here she was, attending Tufts University and in a place where she herself could be one of those college mentors she’d looked up to so many years ago.
“As someone who has been able to benefit from a lot of nonprofits and resources — ones that have allowed me to be at the place I am now — I wanted to ensure I could pay it forward and provide the same opportunities to others.”
Pontes was honored with the Distinguished Young Alumna Award during Reunion Weekend in April for the work she’s done for local nonprofits like SWSG as well as her current role at Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC).
In college, she thought she needed to go the finance route — do more of a “traditional career,” she said, “but I kept looking at jobs that were of interest to me. They were jobs that made an impact. One where I would be able to connect with multiple individuals from many backgrounds.”
She currently serves as a deputy director for ICIC, where she supports small business development in underserved communities by running programs that provide entrepreneurs with the education and resources to grow and advance their businesses. This was especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, Pontes said, as many of these small businesses were “extremely unequipped to weather that sort of impact. We really had an opportunity to respond directly to the needs of the business owners, and provide them with timely and relevant resources to support them during that time.”
Along with her work at ICIC, Pontes volunteers for SWSG, where after serving as a college mentor, she went on to become a board member. “I believe strongly in the power of mentorship, the power of positive role models and positive reinforcements,” she said. She’s also involved with Kriola’s Professional Association, which provides community building and networking to Cape Verdean women in Boston, as their development director.
“I want to be able to use my insights and my knowledge,” she said. “How can I impact others who are struggling to see their future?”
Start of the Spark
Pontes’ decision to pursue a life of service was cultivated and birthed at Dana Hall, she said. Her involvement in SHADES and Bridge helped her bring awareness of various issues that those communities faced by educating the larger Dana Hall community. And she credits Model UN as one of the places that helped hone her voice, teaching her to effectively communicate ideas on important issues and topics.
“Dana really helped build up my own inner confidence,” Pontes said. “At college, I spoke out about the things I was passionate about. I didn’t feel that sense of, ‘What’s everyone going to think of me?’ A lot of those fears were gone because I had done so much of that while at Dana.
“I see the difference in myself and how much Dana has impacted so many aspects of my life compared to my peers,” she said. “I hope to encourage others to hone in on who they are and what they want to be. Follow your passion. Follow your gut to pursue those dreams. The Dana community is there to support that growth.”