Jeff Paquette has joined the BASE staff as chief operating officer. In 2016, Jeff helped draft the program’s strategic plan for 2020. A resident of Jamaica Plain, he brings extensive experience in philanthropic and non-profit enterprises to his new role at The BASE, having previously worked as a teacher, fund-raiser, strategic planner, financial officer, operational manager, and consultant for a variety of organizations both here and abroad.
“The plan we put together was a big, thoughtful, aspirational one,” Jeff reflected in a recent interview. Looking ahead, his challenge will be fitting all the pieces of the plan together, so that The BASE can maximize its impact and outreach. “We need to figure out how to match our aspirations with what we’re actually capable of doing,” he said.
Born in Norwood, Mass., Jeff and his family lived overseas for much of his childhood, including time spent in Argentina (he’s bilingual) and the United Kingdom. He was a high-school middle-distance runner (later a marathoner) and at one point contemplated becoming a journalist. While studying at Columbia University, where he worked on the campus newspaper, he volunteered with The Dome Project, a community-based social service organization aiding at-risk youth and their families. It was there that he became “completely hooked” on social justice and education issues, setting him on a path that has influenced everything he has done since.
After college, Jeff rejoined The Dome Project staff as development director and, later, executive director. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Univ. of California at Berkeley. MBA in hand, he moved back to Boston and to a series of positions at City Year. His arrival in 1992 coincided with a period of rapid expansion for the national youth-corps program. At City Year Boston, he also met and worked closely with Robert Lewis Jr., who would launch The BASE 20 years later. Even more fortuitously, Jeff also met his future wife, Heidi Johnson. Together they opened the program’s first international outpost, City Year South Africa.
Boston’s Urban Edge Housing Corp., the Massachusetts 2020 Foundation. The Boston Foundation, Hunt Alternatives, Youth Inc.: All have benefited from Jeff’s leadership and expertise. His longtime focus on education, youth and family services, and community development has been a natural fit with The BASE and its mission to empower and inspire inner-city youth using academics and athletics.
How does Jeff see The BASE, now that he’s a full-time team member? As an “innovative platform” changing outcomes for, and perceptions of, young black and Latino men and women, he said — including how they see themselves. Like City Year and The Dome Project, he added, The BASE has created a culture that nurtures leadership skills vital to future success in life. “What The BASE has in addition is a whatever-it-takes mentality that says, if something isn’t working, let’s find another way,” Jeff observed. “It’s that kind of creative energy keeps everyone on their toes.”