Alray Scholars Program Donor Meryl Kessler Gives from the Heart

Donor Meryl Kessler didn’t require a hard sell—or even a real “ask”—to open her heart, wallet and living room to the Alray Scholars Program.

Kessler was just talking with a friend over coffee: longtime Alray volunteer Janet Altman, now Program Director.

“She was telling me about the program, back when she was a member of the board,” she said. “But she was speaking with such passion and enthusiasm about the mission. That really resonated with me.”

Kessler, now Executive Director of the Massachusetts League of Women Voters, has a deep interest and background in education. She worked previously with Boston Public School students in an after-school program promoting civic education, run by the nonprofit Discovering Justice. Her husband, Scott Oran, serves as board chair of a Boston charter school.

“We were both pretty aware of how difficult it is for Boston kids to make it through college and come out the other side,” Kessler said. “Getting there is really challenging. So many people don’t realize how easy it is for someone to become derailed in their college career… like someone who doesn’t have the money for the last few credits.”

Kessler and her husband live in Newton, and both work in Boston. “People who live in Greater Boston can’t see themselves as insulated and isolated from what happens in Boston, and from the health of the city,” she said.

Kessler and her husband began making generous annual donations to support the Alray Scholars Program about three years ago. In December 2015 they hosted a party at their home to raise donations, promote relationships and recruit new mentors.

“I loved that it was a scrappy, hands-on organization that wasn’t working at 30,000 feet,” Kessler said, of her decision to support Alray. “It was really working hand-in-glove with young people. They identified the problem and they really figured out how we can intervene and get people back on course to college completion.”