United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

March 17, 2014

A Product of His Environment

A Marian Heard Scholar offers the inside scoop on how to succeed.

Nehemie Alcindor knows his sisters are coming after him.

The nineteen-year-old is in the middle of his sophomore year at Suffolk University, with eyes on becoming a prosecutor one day. He pulls in top-shelf grades and is the first in his family to attend a four-year school. His older brother was the first to go to college (a two-year program), but in the Alcindor family the competition to one-up each other is fierce. And as successful as his collegiate tenure has been thus far, his younger sisters have had no qualms about telling him they’re angling to trump his achievements.

That’s perfectly fine for Nehemie, who looks back at all his family has to navigate and is more than happy that life success is the currency most precious to his siblings.

Emigrating from Haiti when he was two, the Alcindors were in search of a better life in America. They bounced around from Cambridge to Somerville and, ultimately, to Lynn, where Nehemie grew up.

He dodged the lurking pitfalls that can often menace a kid in the city through sports and civic engagement. Nehemie was active in the Boys and Girls Club Keystone Program, Girls Inc. and the Lynn Youth Organization Network. He holds a particular affinity for Lynn, and his volunteerism has always been geared towards helping the city shake its “City of Sin” reputation.

“I hear stories of how it was in the past,” he says. “If people could see all the hard work being done and all the programs getting kids involved, they would change their opinion.”

In the school halls he found intense pressure to be the cool kid, be the popular kid, to “change your character,” as he says. A two-sport athlete, Nehemie could have easily journeyed down some easy, unhealthy paths, but his participation in afterschool activities, especially the Boys and Girls club, maintained his focus and developed self-confidence.

“Statistics prove that kids who get involved in programs and stay connected are going to be more successful in life,” he says. “The Boys and Girls club helped me, mentored me, made sure I had the right balance. Things can get crazy and it’s good to have someone to talk to.”

College was always in the cards, but cost was a concern. He had been accepted to 17 schools, but couldn’t afford any. Suffolk offered the most generous financial aid package which, combined with United Way’s Marian Heard Scholarship program, provided Nehemie the means to enroll; in fact, the scholarship he received last year perfectly filled in the financial gap he had been facing. The Marian Heard Scholarship is given annually to local, lower-income students, and is a four-year scholarship. There are currently 25 MLH scholars.

Today, Nehemie is on the fast-track to his dream job, throwing the book at ne’er-do-wells as a Massachusetts state prosecutor.

“I’m a product of my environment,” he says. “I’m a success story because I was surrounded by positive mentors and positive people.”