40 Under 40 The Class of 2010

Lorenzo Gaines

Age 39: Program Director, ACCESS Springfield Promise Program

Lorenzo Gaines is certainly proud of his 40 Under Forty plaque, but he has a far bigger prize in mind — an Academy Award. And not just any Oscar, mind you, but Best Picture.

He knows that’s a very lofty ambition, but he’s not going to even consider the sentiment that his goal is unrealistic or out of reach. That’s because his day job boils down to help convincing young people that nothing — especially a college education — is beyond their grasp.

That’s the unofficial job description Gaines has as program director for the ACCESS Springfield Promise Program, which provides access to post-secondary opportunities for high-school students in Springfield with Last Dollar Scholarships and information. Its mission? ‘We imagine a day when every young person reaches their full potential by graduating from college regardless of their family’s financial capacity or college experience.’

“That pretty much says it all,” Gaines noted, adding that so does the name he gave to his boutique film-production company: No Sleep Productions.

Gaines has long been involved with film, and as a student at Columbia, his ‘short,’ as they’re called, won the Hallmark Entertainment Producer Development Award, the most prestigious honor for that realm at the school.

Currently, he’s working on a few scripts that he hopes to turn into successful productions. One is a documentary on fathers that’s been in progress for several years now, and the other is a feature film on the life and death of Len Bias, the University of Maryland basketball star who died a day after being drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1986 due to cocaine intoxication.

“That’s when the war on drugs was declared and crack was considered an epidemic,” said Gaines, speaking of the historical significance of Bias’s death, but adding quickly that there was and is a personal element to the tragedy. “That was a watershed in my life; it was like the shot heard ’round the world.

“I believe film can be used as a catalyst to change people’s lives,” Gaines continued, meaning his own, as well.

—George O’Brien