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The first year after Manuel Gomes emigrated from Cape Verde as a 12-year-old, he never made it out of his Dorchester neighborhood, not even to downtown Boston.
He stuck close to home because he did not know how to speak English, confined to Bowdoin-Geneva streets he knew were dangerous.
“It was so easy to jump into the wrong crowd of friends,” the now 20-year-old Bridgewater State University student said. “All of a sudden, I wasn’t behaving, not getting good grades, not doing anything positive.”
But then a seventh-grade pal invited him to come along to the Teen Center at St. Peter Church in Dorchester. With new friends from that afterschool program, he went on a spring break trip to New York.
And with new resolve, he got all A’s and B’s on his first report card at Boston International High School.