United Way Scholars

Where are they now? Inspiring stories from the 2016 graduating class of MLH Scholars

You met many of them early in their college experience – see what they’re doing now!

This time of year, the smiles of graduating young people shine bigger than the warm spring sun.  They are bright, hopeful and eager take charge of their futures, embarking on a journey of “firsts” – first time living away from home, first time choosing your own classes (and whether to go to them), and more. For first generation college students and families, many of whom faced long odds and big obstacles to get there, acceptance letters, scholarship awards, and caps and gowns present a very meaningful set of “firsts”.

That’s just part of what makes the 12 graduates of the 2016 United Way Marian L. Heard Scholars class so extraordinary.  They’ve each charted their own unique paths, ranging from Liberia, to Lawrence, Boston and beyond, to attend colleges and universities across the region.  They have achieved remarkable things and are wise beyond their years, as evidenced by their thoughtful advice for future scholars and their plans to give back to their communities as they launch careers from nursing to law school.  

“Nehemie (and all the Scholars) have been a true source of inspiration the last four years,” said Greg Moore, MLH Scholars Committee co-chair and mentor to Nehemie Alcindor.  “I often wish I could bottle his drive, energy, and positive attitude to use for myself during a difficult week. I am excited to see what Nehemie and the MLH Scholars class of 2016 accomplish next and feel confident we are great hands with this outstanding group of future leaders.”

As we celebrate their success, we asked a few of them to offer their own advice to the Scholars who will follow in their footsteps.


Suffolk University; B.S. in Sociology with a Concentration in Crime and Justice. Nehemie plans to become a fraud investigator for a bank or for the Commonwealth.

“My advice for incoming scholars is to enjoy your time as an undergraduate and network with as many people as possible, because those networks will help with getting internships and jobs. Most importantly, college is a balancing act between academics, work, and a social life.  Have a great support team that will keep you motivated when times get tough.”

Looking back: we first introduced Nehemie on this blog in 2014, A product of his environment.  See how far he’s come!


Bentley University; B.S. in Economics/Finance. Jason will be working for State Street Corporation as a member of the Professional Development Program.

“Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You may enjoy something you would’ve never seen yourself doing in the first place. Take advantage of opportunities (such as study abroad, trips out of state, learn a new skill, etc.) in college because you don’t want to look back at your college experience full of regrets. Work hard, but always find time for yourself and have fun. Maintaining this balance and keeping your eyes on the prize (graduation) will ensure four unforgettable years of college.”

Looking back: Jason and his mentor, Jeff, talk about their relationship and how Jason has become a mentor to Jeff’s son.  Win Win Win.

Miriam NyanMiriam

University of Massachusetts, Worcester; B.S. in Biology. Miriam will be entering an accelerated nursing program after graduation.

“My advice for the incoming class is that college is a very stressful experience, so they need to make sure they have a strong support system in place. Remember to get help before any minor problems turn into major ones. Have some fun and be willing to try new things.”

Looking back: You have to read Miriam’s incredible story of moving here from Liberia in 2001. 

Sheila C. ReyesShei

Boston College; B.A. Sociology, International Studies Minor. Sheila is searching for a position within the legal field to gain experience before going to Law School in the near future.

“Don’t be afraid of asking for help, no matter what it is. There are so many resources on campus and people outside of school that are always rooting for your success. Sometimes your biggest struggle can have the simplest solution if you just reach out to others.”

Looking back: It seems like yesterday that Sheila was an intern at United Way and shared her story, Rising Above.

Man Rou (Mandy) Zhen Mandy

University of Massachusetts Amherst; dual degrees in Psychology and Public Health. Mandy is currently interning at Celgene, a global biopharmaceutical company. She officially graduated last weekend!

“Don’t be shy to stay in contact and reach out to eMentors! They are great resources and support who are here to offer help and advice. Don’t be afraid to ask. College experiences are what you make of them.” 

Mandy’s mentor, Page DeGregorio, had this message for her:  “Mandy, you have already accomplished more than many young people.  Be proud of your achievements and never stop learning.  Your bright outlook, thoughtful approach and solid determination will lead you on to great things.  I am grateful for the opportunities we have had to learn from and teach one another.  I am fortunate, too, to have you as a friend.”

To date, the program has provided $520,000 in scholarships to 52 Scholars.  The next class of Marian L. Heard Scholars will be announced in June.

“It has been unbelievably amazing and humbling to watch each of these Scholars grow over the last four years. They continue to push themselves to new heights, and inspire us to do the same,” said Dahlia Bousaid, Senior Director of Community Impact at United Way, who oversees the MLH program.  “I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with them and look forward to seeing what this next chapter brings.”

Click here to learn more about the United Way Marian L. Heard Scholars program, or contact Dahlia Bousaid for more information on how to get involved.