Paying it forward: one mentor's impact on his mentee and his community

By: Michael Rambo

When Representative Nick Collins ran for, and won a vacant seat in the Massachusetts State Senate, he left his spot as the State Rep in the 4th Suffolk District behind.  One of his former aides, a longtime volunteer with Catholic Charities, David Biele, then vied for and won the Democratic primary for Collins’ old post.

Now running unopposed in the upcoming general election, Biele—a lifelong South Boston resident and community contributor—is now slated to represent his neighborhood in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

Years ago, before entering public service, Biele graduated from law school, then assisted poor and elderly clients in disability and family law as a member of the Boston College Legal Assistance Bureau. Looking for a way to further help his community, a friend referred him to Catholic Charities’ Together Engaging Adolescents through Mentoring program, or TEAM.

TEAM matches South Boston youth, ages 8 - 16, with caring, adult mentors. “It’s the best thing that I’ve ever done” Biele explained in an interview. “What’s great about the team program is that you’re working with a local family, the payoffs are huge, and it makes a difference in your community.”

David Biele (center) with his mentee, Tim (left), attending a Red Sox game.Biele was paired with a 12-year-old named Tim. Tim didn’t have a good support structure at home, and had dropped out of middle school. David was determined to help Tim get back on the right track. “I have had a lot of friends who…in their formative years met a crossroads, and some of them went down the wrong path;” Biele told me, “and I have seen the effects of those choices. It bothers me. It’s not something that I want to see other people have to experience.”

Working with Tim through the TEAM program was a challenge at first. Tim had never really had a presence in his life that mentors like Biele provide. But working through the program’s guidelines helped Biele get through to him, “the TEAM program meets more regularly than most mentoring programs, it can be intense, but they really give you the tools to learn when and how to find teachable moments and have difficult conversations.”

Through eight years of work together, David was able to connect with Tim, get him back in school, and help him turn his life around. Tim was able to get his high school diploma, and now at 22, Tim has a steady job and a stable life.

For his work with Tim and other work in the community, David Biele was honored as a Hero Among Us by the Boston Celtics, an honor David was able to share with Tim, bringing Tim to his first Celtics game. “It was an awesome honor,” Biele said, “it was something we got to share together, but it was really a credit to him, you can try to help people all you want, but Tim is the one who had to take that first affirmative step.”

Biele’s history helping his community has long informed his work in public service. As an aide to Rep. Collins, he was able to work on a bill which alleviated property taxes for longtime South Boston residents,  addressing a major issue in the neighborhood. “I was really proud of that bill,” Biele said, “increases in property values have priced out homeowners who have already paid of their mortgages, retired, and as a result of rising property values, can’t pay their increased property taxes.” Through this legislation, many Southie residents have been able to keep homes they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.

Now as a future State Representative himself, Biele has busied himself preparing for his new office. “I’m still volunteering, and still going to events, because I need to know what’s going on in the neighborhood, in the district that I’m going to represent. I need to be able to do the best possible job for them. They’re my boss.”