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Boston Activist Recognized for Helping Latino Community, People in Need

Carmen Pola receives 2012 Andrus Award

Carmen Pola on phone, AARP Massachusetts Latino community

Carmen Pola, 73, a leader in Boston’s Latino community, assists a Mission Hill resident with a problem. Pola received AARP Massachusetts’s top volunteer award. — Charlie Mahoney/Prime

En español | As a young, poor migrant farm worker in the late 1950s, Carmen Pola sometimes went to bed with no dinner.

"I promised myself if I ever had children, I wouldn't let that happen to them," she said.

How you can help Drive to End Hunger in America.

Today Pola, 73, a longtime activist in Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood, is a leading voice in the city's Latino community and a tireless advocate for people in need.

Over the years, she has drawn on her migrant worker experience to organize and rally her neighbors. She has worked to bring together the city's older residents to address common problems such as access to health care and jobs; advocated to improve public schools; battled for better public housing conditions; and pushed for quality care for children with mental health issues.

Pola "is one of the strongest advocates that I have met," said Emily Shea, who heads Boston's Commission on Affairs of the Elderly. "She has the best interests of seniors in the community at heart."

Bringing people together

Mission Hill is one of Boston's most racially and economically diverse neighborhoods. With a population of more than 16,000, the area is home to several prominent universities and colleges, world-renowned hospitals, public housing projects and a historic district. College students and medical professionals, longtime residents and recent arrivals from around the world are neighbors.

"She's caring, a fighter, loyal and outspoken," said John Jackson, administrative coordinator for the Tobin Community Center, a city-run agency in Mission Hill that offers educational, social arts and other programs.

Pola is quick to speak out if residents let their differences come between them, he said. "She likes bringing people together."

Next page: Empowering seniors to get things done. »

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