Hector Acevedo immigrated to Cambridge from El Salvador when he was a child, sharing a studio apartment with his mother and several uncles. They came for the opportunities and better medical care, and found city resources instrumental in navigating life here.
“Cambridge has always been a place where immigrant families could call home, where [for] individuals who want to work toward providing a better life for their families, Cambridge always fostered that feeling,” says Acevedo, who now lives in East Cambridge. “So we stayed, and I’ve been lucky to be a product of the Cambridge Public Schools, our amazing after school programs, incredible teachers who never gave up on me.”
He also quickly learned about giving back. He spent several summers with the Young People’s Project (YPP), a local nonprofit that teaches math in the context of social responsibility. When Acevedo attended Hamilton College on a scholarship from the Posse Foundation, he brought YPP to the campus to help deepen the school’s sense of philanthropy.
“[It] shaped my mentality around really wanting to help people,” he says. “I wanted to connect people to resources, I wanted to help connect families to opportunities, and be socially conscious, and think about social justice, and math was just the gateway to that.”
Find It Cambridge, a multilingual online database that connects residents to services and events, lets Acevedo help others access some of the same resources that have helped him during his life in Cambridge. He became Find It’s manager in August 2016, and has helped to grow the resource by connecting with people from all over the city.
Find It lists over 700 events and programs and offers search options based on cost, location, age, and category.
“Find It really is that gateway for families to look for opportunities, resources, and events in a simpler and more efficient online platform,” Acevedo explains. “Primarily, it was just about giving back to my community, connecting people to those resources that I had growing up, that my mom had.”
Acevedo received an Outstanding City Employee Award earlier this month for his work at Find It, and was credited with helping the website attract close to 250,000 page views since April 2017.
“In order to make Find It a success, Hector has had to do a great deal of outreach and build relationships with a wide variety of people,” the announcement of Acevedo’s award reads. “He connects with everyone, whether he is working one-on-one with a mom who just moved to Cambridge and needs to find child care for her kids, training a group [of] outreach workers on how to find resources using Find It, or going to the 7 a.m. roll call at the Police Department so that our officers know about Find It. Because of Hector, so many who live and work in Cambridge are now able to connect with the amazing resources we have, and he does it with such finesse, passion, and a lovable sense of humor.”
For Acevedo, connection is at the heart of Find It. Cambridge offers hordes of resources, but many people don’t know about them or don’t realize how many of them are free or face a language barrier. Acevedo regularly spends time with community members, helping them with tax forms or phone numbers or affordable housing applications or just hearing how Find It could become more useful for them.
“[Find It] was a small investment that now impacts the lives of hundreds of people every day,” he says. “We’re so lucky that Find It has grown to be a tool in people’s toolkits, whether it’s an officer in the Cambridge Police Department who’s helping support a family, or one of the community engagement team members, one of the family liaisons who’s helping a family look for a program or event in a different language, or just a parent on the bus trying to find an after school program or a summer program.”