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Rayana Grace, Creative Commonwealth

Energetic, creative, motivated, empathetic, loyal. These are all words that describe New Bedford native Rayana Grace. Rayana’s deep love for the city of New Bedford drives her to serve the Southcoast region through her role as the Arts & Culture Program Manager at the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts. Rayana is also a member of the Board of Directors for the New Bedford Historical Society, a member of the Board of Trustees for Our Sisters’ School, a member of the AHA! Steering Committee, and a member of the Board of Managers for the YMCA. Needless to say, Rayana is actively involved in the Southcoast community! Rayana has a passion for helping people. As a student at Boston College, Rayana changed her major from Biology to Sociology to align her academic and career paths with this passion. Learning about social systems through her degree program equipped her with valuable skills to understand the adverse situations that people encounter. Her work experiences in New Bedford reinforced this knowledge. After graduating from Boston College, she decided to return to New Bedford and serve her community. Rayana’s first job after college was Case Manager at the Harbour House Shelter. In this role, she helped give support to families so that they could stabilize and move into homes. It was here that Rayana learned about the stigmas surrounding homelessness.

Following this position, Rayana became the Youth Development Director at the YMCA, where she led youth programming and formed community partnerships. Rayana loves working with children because they are hopeful and inquisitive. While the YMCA is a worldwide organization that provides opportunities for upward mobility, Rayana said that she decided to stay in New Bedford as she feels powerfully drawn to giving back to the city that raised her. She describes the New Bedford community as being able to “do a lot with a little.” She sees many benefits to living in New Bedford beyond the stigmas associated with the city, such as wind energy, cultural richness, and the history of textiles and abolition. Rayana is proud of the work she does every day in her current role as the Arts & Culture Program Manager at the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts. In one of her most recent accomplishments, she applied for and received a million-dollar grant from the Barr Foundation to further arts and culture initiatives in New Bedford. On a personal level, Rayana is proud to be a homeowner. Historically, homeownership for Black people wasn’t always possible due to systemic issues like loan discrimination. Rayana is happy to own a home at such a young age, to break the generational cycle of discrimination towards Black people in regards to homeownership, and to start building for a future family.

Currently, Rayana is learning more about mass incarceration and mortality rates in healthcare. She is particularly interested in the treatment of Black women and the injustices they face in the medical field. She is also eager to learn how to speak Creole! Rayana has a warm heart that is family- and community-centered. Her vibrant personality and dedication to New Bedford are admirable, and these traits flow through her work serving the community she loves.