Marian L. Heard Scholarship Spotlight: Xyra Mercer, Former Boston School Committee Student Representative

Xyra Mercer, the departing Student Representative to the Boston School Committee, is a 2022 recipient of United Way’s Marian L. Heard Scholarship.

The Marian L. Heard Scholarship was established as a legacy in honor of Marian L. Heard’s 12+ years of service at United Way, including as President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Massachusetts Bay. The scholarship recognizes Heard’s contributions to the organization and aims to advance the next generation of leaders by promoting youth leadership development through education, positive adult relationships, and community involvement.

Each scholarship recipient receives $10,000 over four years, plus an e-Coach, a dedicated United Way volunteer who provides advice, support, and mentorship throughout their collegiate journey.

get to know XYRA MERCER

Xyra graduated in June from the Dr. William W. Henderson K-12 Inclusion School in Dorchester, where she excelled in academics and multiple student leadership positions. Xyra served as the captain of the debate team, a member of student government, a leader of the school’s women’s empowerment group Vanguards, a member of the Black Student Union, a voting member of the Henderson Governing Board, a member of the Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club, and a member of the BPS Teacher Cadet program.

Xyra is most proud of her role as the sole Student Representative to the School Committee, the governing body of the Boston Public Schools. Xyra joined the Committee in April 2021, sworn in during a ceremony at Boston City Hall after being elected by her peers on the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC).  Xyra continued to serve on the Committee through June 2022, representing a student body of nearly 50,000 during often lengthy, biweekly meetings.

“Sometimes it can really feel like a lot when you’re doing so much, but I loved being able to go back to BSAC and incorporate our voice into decisions that were being made,” said Mercer. She says one of her major accomplishments during her time as student representative was working with her peers to reform BSAC to amplify youth voice. “It was really empowering seeing that whole process from the inside out, figuring out how we can reform BSAC so that we weren’t just performative activists. The School Committee was quick to respond to us and I really appreciated the support they gave us.”

Xyra is attending Suffolk University in the fall and plans to major in Global Cultural Studies, with a concentration in culture, conflict and communication. She intends to pursue a career in education, with a goal of becoming an ethnic studies or global issues teacher. Her longer-term goal is to be the principal of a public school in Boston.


In recognizing Mercer’s scholarship at the July 13 meeting of the Boston School Committee, Chairperson Jeri Robinson announced that United Way has committed to awarding the Heard Scholarship to future Boston School Committee Student Representatives who meet the selection criteria. “The Committee has been fortunate to have some remarkable student representatives over the years and for a long time we have been looking for ways to acknowledge their valuable contributions to the district,” said Chair Robinson. “We want to thank the United Way for their generous support of Boston’s young people.”

“College is very expensive and I’m from a multigenerational home, relying on my mother who’s also taking care of other people,” said Mercer. “This scholarship does a lot. I can only save up so much and my mom can only help me so much. That extra hand from the Heard Scholarship really means a lot.”

Xyra and her fellow scholars will be welcomed to the program during a virtual ceremony with Marian L. Heard herself in August. For more on the Marian L. Heard Scholarship program, click here.