By Ginger DeShaney

Through her participation in sports and her work with Boston Police Department District C-6, Irinna Rosa has grown into a confident young woman.

As a tennis player and judo brown belt, Irinna has learned “confidence, leadership, don’t be afraid to do things, and even though you are down, you always find a way to get out of your situation,” she said. “I have also learned that even though you’re really stressing out, you should always give it your all and try your best at all times.”

In turn, she mentors young people to try to instill those same traits and help them grow.

“It just gives me joy helping people,” said the daughter of Isa and Francisco Rosa of South Boston. “Since I was very young, I was shy, not doing stuff. And so not a lot of people helped me until I did sports. I want to help little kids so that they won’t be shy in the future. And so I was like, ‘Let me help them more.’ ”

Irinna has been playing tennis for about 12 years at Sportsman Tennis Club. She has taught young kids how to play while building their leadership skills.

Irinna attends Ultimate Self-Defense and goes in early to help the sensei set up and assist with  classes for the younger kids. “I’ve been helping the kids gain their confidence at a young age. So when they go to school, they won’t be scared or anything. I show them they can be strong, like give them an extra boost.”

As a C-6 youth leader in South Boston, she mentors and connects with the young girls and helps Community Service Officer Ayesha Lawton.

Irinna, a senior at Roxbury Prep who will be attending Bentley University in the fall, is our first featured Southie Scholar this year. 

“She has shown dedication; always willing to help her community,” said Officer Ayesha. “I feel so fortunate I was able to work with Irinna and look forward to see what the future holds for her.”

Officer Ayesha met Irinna a couple of years ago, pre-COVID, during a tennis program at Sportsman. They would take youth to Dorchester every Friday night for pizza and tennis. ”Irinna was such a huge help,” the officer said. “She, even at a young age, showed extraordinary leadership skills and was able to connect with each child.”

Irinna said it’s really fun working with Office Ayesha, who teaches her about life, about being a young woman, about what it’s like to be a grown-up. “She’s really nice.”

At age 8, Irinna met her tennis coach, Frank Williams, who used to be a Boston police officer. He has been a big part of her life. “He really mentored me a lot over the years, and so I’m thankful for him for helping me with all my stuff in tennis, helping build my confidence when I was young, and giving me many opportunities.”

Irinna’s mentors are “one of the reasons I love being here [in South Boston].”

Irinna’s family is Cape Verdean. She used to volunteer as a translator with a Dorchester-based organization that helps other Cape Verdeans know about what’s going on in the community. She’s also involved in her church, St. Patrick’s, in Roxbury. She and her twin sister, Brianna, help with the altar and guide the new servers.

At Bentley, Irinna will study data analytics with a minor in finance. Brianna, also a senior at Roxbury Prep, is deciding between Smith and UMass-Dartmouth. 

Irinna is grateful for Roxburty Prep’s curriculum “and how they push us for a better education.” Irinna, who is taking all AP classes, said, “It’s really nice how they prepare us for college.”

Her favorite class is economics. “I really want to go into business and so when I found out they had AP econ, I was really excited. It’s really fun to learn.”

Irinna is on the Quiz Bowl team at Roxbury Prep. Before the pandemic, she was in theater, and was one of the lead roles for “Beauty and the Beast.” Unfortunately, the school has not reinstituted theater yet.

Irinna has wanted to go to Bentley since she was young. After attending her cousin’s college graduation from Bentley and seeing the campus, and from doing more research, she knew that Bentley is where she wanted to go. 

Her parents were really excited when she got into college. Irinna and Brianna will be among the first in their family to go to college. “They’re very happy for me and my sister,” said Irinna. “They are really proud.”