A Graduation Like No Other: Pine Street Inn Celebration Attracts Scores to Celebrate New Hope

By Seth Daniel

A simple fall and a seriously injured shoulder derailed Silvaria DeSilva’s life – taking her home, her business and sending her to the Pine Street Inn after couch surfing at family members’ apartments.

Accustomed to working as either a nurse or hairdresser and providing for herself, she found herself in a precarious situation when she arrived at the shelter in 2016 and couldn’t do those jobs and couldn’t provide a living.

Many months later, she graduated at the head of her class during last Friday’s Pine Street Inn Graduation ceremonies and is headed to Cambridge Culinary College on a scholarship, expanding on the training she got at the Inn’s iCater program and her natural cooking ability. She still lives at the Inn in the South End, but is working on making the final transition to finding a job, getting housing and heading to claim that scholarship.

“I never had been to a shelter before I came here and didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I had always liked cooking and the staff supported me and suggested I try iCater. It’s one of the best things I have ever done…Now I can plan to go on to culinary school…I’m on my way to my next step, which is to leave the shelter to permanent housing…I hope to one day be able to open my own catering business. That’s my dream…I still have my challenges, but my piece of advice to the graduates here is don’t spend time looking back. You don’t want to forget, but know to trust yourself going forward.”

Beyond the training for a job and the housing, DeSilva praised the Inn for programming like mindfulness, yoga and other tools to help deal with the rigors of life.

“I’ve also learned to listen with love to my body’s messages while learning yoga here,” she said.

DeSilva was one of about 100 graduates who got certificates from the Pine Street Inn during graduation on Friday, June 23. For her and the others, it was a celebration of turning their lives around and, for some, working their way up form living on the streets to participating in a training program to finally having their own apartment and an outside job.

It’s a transition that is happening more and more at the Inn as training programs and permanent housing take the place of more and more shelter beds. It’s a victory that was celebrated by the City’s John Barros and Sheila Dillon on Friday as well.

Barros was on hand and spoke to the graduates, saying they are the backbone and the hosts to the burgeoning tourist industry in the city.

“There have been a lot of graduations in Boston and ours is probably the last one, but our is the most special graduation in the city as far as we’re concerned,” said Pine Street Director Lyndia Downie.

Additionally, New England Patriot All-Pro Matthew Slater – a frequent volunteer at Pine Street – spoke to the graduates and praised their persistence in reaching goals over tremendous obstacles.

“Celebrate and smile today,” he said, “but know this is just the beginning of the journey to bigger and better things for all of you.”

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