Director, Economic Inclusion
The Boston Foundation
Heritage: Puerto Rican
By: Frank Morris Lopez
As a child opera star who once appeared on The Oprah Show, Corean Reynolds thought she’d be rolling in the dough rather than distributing it.
“I thought I would be an international pop star, but here I am,” she said with a laugh.
Here she is — having invested more than $13 million in grants to nonprofit organizations in the Greater Boston area to promote business equity and economic inclusion. It’s a much different path than where her childhood dreams were leading her.
Born to a Black father and a Puerto Rican mother, Reynolds grew up on the southside of Chicago, where her musical talents took her to the Czech Republic, Korea and Japan. But early on in her college career, Reynolds realized she needed to do something else.
“With music, I thought I could create a better world, and I always knew I wanted to be a woman for others. But I saw disinvestment in the southside of Chicago, and I learned I could change the world in a different way and still be true to myself.”
So, she studied urban planning, but found herself facing career obstacles. “How do you break into that industry when you don’t have experience?” she said. “I had no idea what my life would look like with this degree. I just knew I would be equipped with the tools to support my community.”
In 2014, six months after graduating college and with no professional contacts in the area, Reynolds moved to Boston, where she found work with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. There, she built networks in pursuit of a more diverse workforce within the gaming industry.
That ultimately led to a position with The Boston Foundation, the largest public charity and grantmaker in New England. Though she had no previous experience in philanthropy or business lending, her boss, she said, saw potential in her.
“Four promotions later, now I’m here.”
She says that as a young Afro-Latina in the industry, she has sometimes felt imposter syndrome but has done her best to fight against that feeling, and encourages other Latinos to do the same.
“A lot of philanthropy is built on white wealth, and I navigated that the best I could by being myself,” she said. “I knew traditionally someone like me did not fit in, but I knew I could fit in. And I knew once I did, I could say to others that this space is as much mine as it is theirs.”