Skip to content Skip to navigation

VIRTUAL CONVERSATION: Meeting Community Needs through Civic Engagement

Tuesday, August 9, 2022 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Registration is requested



VIRTUAL TICKETS | Free and open to the public


VIRTUAL CONVERSATION: Meeting Community Needs through Civic Engagement

with Henry Santana and Gladys Vega, in conversation with The Reverend Kevin C. Peterson

People across the political spectrum want to be civically engaged. Reverend Kevin C. Peterson will moderate a discussion with Henry Santana, Director of Civic Organizing for the City of Boston, and Gladys Vega, Executive Director of La Colaborativa, on why community organizing is an important part of civic engagement at the local and regional levels. They'll also consider how citizens can work in partnership with elected officials and government to meet community needs.

Henry Santana was born in Bani, Dominican Republic. and migrated to Boston as a child. He attended Lasell University where he graduated with a B.A in History and Political Science. He previously worked as an Associate at MFS Investment Management. Before that, he served as the Field Director for Councilor Kenzie Bok and then her Director of Operations and Mission Hill and Fenway Liaison. 

Henry currently lives in Dorchester with his dog, Tatum. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family as well as spending time with his mentees.

Gladys Vega has dedicated more than three decades of service to the City of Chelsea and La Colaborativa, which she joined in 1990 – just two years after its founding. Gladys was born in Puerto Rico and came to Chelsea with her family at the age of nine. Since that time, she has made a lifelong commitment to the community in which she was raised. Being a mother of two has deepened her commitment to building a better future for families throughout the region.

During her tenure at La Colaborativa, Gladys has assumed increasing levels of responsibility with each passing year, as she moved from receptionist to community organizer to Assistant Executive Director and ultimately Executive Director. She has led La Colaborativa in the Executive Director role since 2006.

​Gladys is a groundbreaking community organizer and advocate, working relentlessly and fearlessly to ensure the Latinx immigrant community has a voice in determining how it’s needs and concerns are addressed. She believes that empowerment of the individual leads to empowerment of the community and that social action is the vehicle an empowered community can use to achieve its goals.

​Gladys is the architect of nearly all of La Colaborativa’s programs, initiatives, and community organizing campaigns. Her leadership has resulted in expanded rights for immigrants, low-income families, tenants, workers, youths, and people of color across Massachusetts.

Gladys is recognized as one of the region’s most prominent and important community leaders, receiving citywide, statewide, and national accolades for her leadership. When the COVID-19 pandemic created overlapping public health, unemployment, housing, and hunger crises in Chelsea and surrounding areas, Gladys’s leadership positioned La Colaborativa at the forefront of state and local efforts to meet the tremendous needs of Latinx residents across Massachusetts. Her advocacy earned national coverage from the Atlantic Monthly, as well as local coverage in The Boston Globe, CBSN Boston and others.

Rev. Kevin PetersonThe Reverend Kevin C. Peterson is founder and director of the New Democracy Coalition, which focuses on civic literacy, civic policy and electoral justice in Boston and across the United States. He focuses his efforts on civic empowerment on behalf of historically disenfranchised groups. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Coallaborative Leadership at Umass Boston and a faculty assistant at the Boston University Center for Anti-Racist Research. He is a leading voice in the Faneuil Hall Race and Reconciliation effort in Boston and supports Reparations.  Find more about his organization at

This discussion is offered as the keynote event for Primary Sources in the Classroom: Active Citizenship, a workshop for educators. The workshop is sponsored in part by Taylor Mudge through the Mudge Fellowship Program. Special thanks to Boston University Center for the Humanities for supporting this initiative through PhD Graduate Internships in the Humanities.


Assistive Listening Devices image

Auto-generated captions are available for most virtual programs. To request live captioning or other accommodations, please contact Hannah Weisman at or 617-720-7617 at least four business days prior to the event.