Dreams to Reality: Parent Leader

Erika’s Story

Navigating the housing world today is an undertaking. We’re here to help.

In this series, Dreams to Reality, we will hear from several Urban Edge clients who have experienced successes, whether that be in renting, buying, or affordably maintaining their homes. We’re so proud to have worked with these hardworking people, and we are thrilled to be part of the process of making their housing dreams a reality.

We are in the business not only of helping our community buy homes and rent affordable units, but also of supporting and empowering our clients to involve themselves in their community, feel at home in their neighborhoods, and build a stable network of support for themselves. We know that having a roof over your is the first step in creating stability, but the work doesn’t stop there. That’s why we offer programs like our Strong Start Kindergarten readiness program, and we love to see our community stepping up and growing together.

This story comes from Erika Rodriguez, who got involved with an Urban Edge program, built herself a supportive network of people, and became a leader in her community.


Erika Rodriguez is originally from the Dominican Republic. She moved to Boston when she was young, and has lived here her whole life.

Before the covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Erika participated in Strong Start, a collaborative parenting and kindergarten readiness program by Urban Edge, Families First, and JumpStart. Erika has four kids: ages 8 years old, 6 years old, 5 years old, and 3 years old, and she wanted to expand her understanding of parenting them.

“I decided to take this program to meet other parents, to learn new things about parenting, and to have a community around me.”

Erika had a great experience in Strong Start – she met parents with similar life experiences, and she learned a lot about what it means to be a parent herself.

“I learned that my children are very different from myself. They have different personalities and different experiences, and Strong Start taught us a way of seeing that. I learned how to find common ground with my kids.”

After her time in the program, Erika decided to apply for a leadership position.

“I wanted to continue to be involved with the program, and I wanted to keep developing myself and moving forward with my goals.”

Her first role was a Parent Leader. Then, she became a Fellow. After two years of leadership in these roles, Erika became an Ambassador for Families First, a role that requires a higher level of commitment.

“As a participant, you just show up, learn, meet other people, and share your stories. As a leader, you still do all of that, but also you have added responsibility.”

Erika has been consistently involved in Strong Start over the past three years – even when it was a challenge to carve out time for herself and for her work. It was difficult to find time for a leadership role while being a fulltime parent to her four children, but Erika made the time, and she is proud of that.

“I kept going, always taking the next step in my involvement and my goals. I’m proud of the work I’ve done for my community, and the work I’ve done towards developing myself.”

Erika’s next step is to apply to be a co-chair at Families First and expand her engagement with the program.

“I love being helpful, and I loved being able to learn what it’s like to be a leader! I really enjoy being a facilitator and knowing what goes on behind the scenes. I was always so curious as a participant, and now I know what goes into making this program work.”

To other parents who are considering taking the Strong Start program, or who are considering taking on a leadership role, Erika says: “If you feel like you want to be part of a community, this is a great program to start with. It’s not too much to take on, and it’s a great starting point. This program can lead you to more leadership opportunities, and it’s always worth trying something new.”

“It’s so important to get out of your comfort zone. That’s what led me to where I am now – I got out of my comfort zone. Always take opportunities that come your way…they lead to great things!”