As high school graduations start taking place across the Commonwealth, many grads are looking forward to their next milestone—going to college. However for some, there are both personal and financial obstacles to achieve this goal. While traditional scholarships only offer financial support, United Way’s innovative Marian L. Heard scholarship offers so much more.
Marian L. Heard (MLH) scholars are recognized for their outstanding achievements in high school and their dedication to community service. Not only do scholars receive up to $10,000 over the course of 4 years, but they are also paired with their very own e-coach—a volunteer mentor.
Marlene Price and Nephtalie Dorceus are both former MLH scholars. While the scholarship’s financial support was extremely beneficial, they both discovered first-hand that their e-coaches were priceless.
MARLENE, 2013 MLH Scholar: THEN AND NOW
Marlene went to Bridgewater State University majoring in political science.
“I was so blessed,” says Marlene. “It would have been easy for me to fall through the cracks.”
But luckily, she had a lot of personalized support from her MLH e-coach, Anne, and guidance from her counselors at Bottom Line, a non-profit mentoring program.
Marlene says that Ann showed her how to navigate tough situations and communicate with her professors. “Anne instilled in me a lot of confidence and ambition to go after what I wanted. She taught me to advocate for myself. If Anne hadn’t been there for me, my progress at Bridgewater would have been much more difficult.”
Even with the demands of college life, Marlene still found time to give back to her community. She was involved in several leadership positions, and also took part in alternative break programs that focussed on addressing poverty and housing instability.
“I felt like MLH taught me how to find ways to help my community and to give back,” says Marlene. “I saw how people were pouring energy and support into me for my future, and I wanted to do the same for others.”
This realization helped Marlene to figure out what she wanted to do after college. She now works at the College Advising Corp. at Brighton High School helping students with the college process. She does everything from talking to them about what they want to do after high school and how to connect it to a possible career.
“I never thought I would be working at a high school,” says Marlene. “I just really want students to feel empowered about the decisions that they make.”
NEPHTALIE, 2012 MLH Scholar: THEN AND NOW
Nephtalie enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, as a biology major. But she soon realized it wasn’t a good fit, so Nephtalie transferred to Springfield College in her sophomore year.
That first year was rough, but after transferring things began to fall into place. “Throughout my time in school I had a lot of emotional support from my mentor,” says Nephtalie. “She held me accountable. If I had a goal that I mentioned, she’d check to see if I reached, or if I needed advice, I knew that I could go to her.”
During the summer of Nephtalie’s junior year, she was interning at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and working for Girls, Inc. as their teen health ambassador and advisor. That’s when Nephtalie had an ah-ha moment. She had developed a passion for health education. Nephtalie spoke with her e-coach, her professor, and also United Way staff with whom she became close. They all encouraged her to pursue what she really wanted.
“I took all the prerequisite courses that I needed to take during my senior year at college so I could apply to grad school, and that summer I got in.”
And just last week, Nephtalie graduated from New York University with a Masters in Public Health! She’s also working at Mt. Sinai Institute for Advanced Medicine as a program coordinator in their Young Adult Sexual Services division.
“The support from United Way never ended,” says Nephtalie. “It was always there, and not just from my e-coach. Even the staff cared about where I was going and how I was doing. They played a big part in me going to grad school and where I’m at today.”
ADVICE for marian l. heard scholarship recipients and others
Marlene and Nephtalie have some words of wisdom for the incoming MLH scholars who will be attending college in the fall.
“Always advocate for yourself,” says Marlene. “Ask how to get involved. Be the one in your group of friends to ask someone at your school about internships or scholarships. You won’t know what’s out there until you ask.”
As for Nephtalie, she suggests staying connected with other MLH scholars and supporting each other equally. “Don’t be afraid of relying on mentors and older family members for advice and emotional support,” she says. “I think teens leave home thinking they’re going to become their own person right away and take change of their life. But I think they forget that there are people out there who have already been through it and can offer good advice.”
You can make a difference in our MLH Scholar’s lives by becoming an e-coach. Contact Dahlia Bousaid Cox for more information on how to get involved.