United Way Scholarship Recipients Recognized for Outstanding Community Work

Marian L. Heard Scholarship Program provides students with $10,000 scholarship and e-coach mentor for college success

BOSTON – Miriam Nyan arrived in Lowell in 2007 after growing up surrounded by violence in Liberia (read about her story here). Today, she is studying biology at Worcester State University to become a doctor so she can return to Africa to help drive down the devastating death tolls that result from curable diseases.  Sheila Reyes, of Roxbury, lost three friends to violence in three years. Today, she is a student at Boston College majoring in sociology and thinking about a future in law school.  Jason Martinez, of Lawrence, just finished his second year at Bentley College.  He is the first in his family to go to college and continues to be an active volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.  They are also all participants in United Way’s Marian L. Heard Scholarship Program.

Today, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley officially welcomed 18 new students to the 2014 class of Marian L. Heard Scholars at a luncheon at the Boston College Club in Boston.  These students are honored for being not only excellent students inside the classroom, but for outstanding leadership in the community.

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“We are so proud to be able to help these scholars – our future leaders – become the people they were meant to be,” says Michael Durkin, President and CEO United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “Every year, I am inspired by their extraordinary resolve and commitment in and out of the classroom.  They come from all over and most have not faced an easy path to get here, but they were undeterred are now poised for success.”

Each scholar who qualifies financially will receive up to $10,000 over the four years they attend college, as well as their own “e-Coach” – a United Way volunteer who will regularly meet with, email, and provide their scholar with advice and support throughout their college journey.  This year, 13 students will receive Marian L. Heard scholarships, while 5 will receive e-coaching and support only (these students received other scholarships or financial aid and did not meet the requirement for financial support).

A unique aspect of the program which aims to position students for college success academically as well as financially is the e-Coach mentoring.  The relationship has proven to be a valuable asset for the students, providing trusted advice on college issues ranging from navigating housing concerns to course selection and internships.

MLH Committee co-Chair Diane Exter, helped shape and grow the scholarship program, and is herself an e-Coach and mentor to two students.  “These young people have already shown themselves to be outstanding and compassionate leaders, and they deserve every opportunity we can give them.  It’s wonderful to be able to not only write them a check, but to work with them and get to know them over 4 years to make sure they have the support and guidance needed to fulfill their limitless potential.”

Scholarship awardees are chosen by a group of United Way donor volunteers from companies like Bain Capital, Deloitte, Brown Brothers Harriman, Clough Capital Partners, who judge based on the following criteria:

  • Must be from low-income families
  • Must intend to pursue a two-year or four-year post-secondary degree
  • Must have held leadership positions in a United Way-funded youth-serving organization for at least two years.

The Marian L. Heard Scholarship was created as a legacy in honor of Marian L. Heard’s service as president and chief executive officer of United Way of Massachusetts Bay.

The 2014 MLH Scholars are:


Mary Collins, Plymouth State University, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston – South Boston

Brooke Hillard, Dartmouth College, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston – South Boston

Christina HuangBoston University, Catholic Charities

Andrew Lin, Boston University, Chinese Progressive Association


Visceria Givens, Bunker Hill Community College, Transition House


Shayla Santana, UMass Dartmouth, Family Services of the MerrimackValley

Jonathan Guzman, Fitchburg State University, Family Services of the MerrimackValley

Ramses Jimenez-Candelario, UMass Lowell, Family Services of the MerrimackValley

Jose Casado, Mount Wachusett Community College, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lawrence


Ashley Pham, UMass Lowell, Lowell Community Health Center

Melissa Graham, UMass Amherst, Lowell Community Health Center


Denyse Hairston, Salem State University, Lynn YMCA

Jessiree Gonzalez, Bridgewater State University, Lynn YMCA


Sudan Zhuang, Syracuse University, Asian American Civic Association

Vicki Ngan, Wellesley College, Asian American Civic Association

Yu Chen, UMass Amherst, Chinese Progressive Association


Karen Ly, UMass Amherst, Chinese Progressive Association


Kandace Demers, Framingham State University, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lower Merrimack Valley