Marking Ten Years of Changing Lives

By Neil Swidey

In the early days of the Alray program, I told an acquaintance who was successful in the nonprofit world that I was working with friends to build a volunteer-powered nonprofit to help good students transform their lives. He warned me how difficult it would be to sustain growth while maintaining intimacy. “Within a few years,” he predicted, “you’ll either be absorbed by a much bigger operation – or you’ll be out of business.”

As Alray celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018, I’m enormously grateful that his prediction turned out to be wrong. Thanks to the tireless work of our team, the inspiring example of our scholars, and the contributions of our growing pool of loyal supporters, the Alray Scholars Program is entering its second decade as a sustainable yet resolutely grassroots organization.

Through consistent mentoring and financial support, we’ve helped lots of students who dropped out of college become college graduates, with many more on their heels. Several have gone on to earn multiple degrees, and one is now working on her doctorate. All of our alumni now receive expert career assistance to turn their degrees into rewarding jobs.

A decade ago, the talk in education was about helping low-income, first-generation students get into college. Few were focused on the unfortunate reality that most of those students were not graduating and were leaving college degreeless and in debt. The Alray model is working in Boston to help solve this college-completion puzzle that continues to plague the nation.

A decade ago, Alray was small enough that we could fit all of our volunteers, supporters, scholars — and their families — into my family’s kitchen for holiday parties. My wife cooked for everyone and my three young girls played in the basement with the scholars’ kids. We’ve long outgrown my kitchen, but the ties that bind the Alray family remain strong. Our Alray grads are paying it forward as volunteers, mentoring new scholars. My girls, now teenagers, now take the photos and produce the videos that help us tell the Alray story.

With your support, Alray will continue to change lives and defy expectations in the next decade and beyond.

Photo: Shante Leathers, an Alray and Wheelock graduate, with her son Noah.