Richard Burey Jr. made some Black history of his own in 2009 when he was named the first Black president and CEO of the Children’s Aid Society. The nearly 160-year-old nonprofit organization serves the city’s neediest children and their families with various services. Over the last 15 months, Burey said he hasn’t looked back since taking the job.
“It’s been a really wonderful experience being on the frontline for meeting the needs of New York’s most neediest children,” he said. “I would say that…[by] learning, listening and getting a handle of the organization, we are able to know the talents we have and build those strengths.”
Born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn, Burey said he grew up in a community that had tremendous challenges but resilient people. His mother was a public school teacher, his father a lab manager. His experience growing up in East New York ignited his urge to make change.
“It’s difficult to come from an experience like that and not be angry,” he said. “It’s also hard to come from that experience and not want to see some change. I figured out that anger can be channeled to action.”
On a mission to make change in the world, he went on to graduate from Harvard and Yale Law School. While in college he volunteered to help disadvantaged children and co-founded the Mission Hill Summer Program in the Roxbury section of Boston in a public housing development. He said that through that experience, he was able to know early on what he wanted to do with his life.
Since co-founding Mission Hill he has also co-founded and acted as the executive director of two other nonprofit organizations: Groundwork Inc., a nonprofit serving children and families in Brooklyn public housing, and iMentor, a technology education and mentoring program connecting middle and high school students with professional mentors through online and face-to-face meetings.
Burey also has extensive experience in the legal field. His work includes serving as a law clerk to Judge John M. Walker of the Federal Court of Appeals and as staff attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice. He also has done work in education serving as a fifth grade teacher at an orphanage in the African nation of Zimbabwe and a lecturer at Baruch College.
But from all of the work that he’s done, Burey said that his work in nonprofits is what fuels him.
“Part of what it does for me is that spark that helps you realize that you can get up and make a difference. I was lucky to find out early on what I love to do,” he said.
As far as making history at Children’s Aid, Burey said that he feels proud to be the organization’s first Black president and CEO because he mirrors the face of the majority of clients that the organization serves. “I feel so honored to be here,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me proud to have that distinction. I can honestly say that I can’t imagine if there is a better job in the world than making the world better.”
Burey lives with his wife, Deborah, a law professor. Together they have two sons ages 4 and 7.