Catholic school students receive Marr family scholarships

DORCHESTER -- A group of 60 students from 11 Catholic elementary and high schools received the gift of scholarships at the 32nd Annual Marr Family Catholic Schools Scholars ceremony held at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester on Feb. 13.

Among those present were several representatives of the Catholic Community Fund, which manages the endowments left by Daniel F. Marr, Jr. and Robert L. Marr to give tuition assistance to members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester (BGCD) who want to attend Catholic schools. Representatives of the Catholic Schools Office and members of the Marr family were also in attendance.

Mike Joyce, senior vice president of operations for the BGCD, served as emcee for the gathering. He noted that they were unable to meet in person for this event during the past three years due to the pandemic.

"It's nice to have everybody in the same space and to be able to congratulate you on being selected for a scholarship," he said as he addressed the students.

Kate Brantley, regional director of the St. John Paul II Catholic Academy, read an invocation prayer. Lynne Sullivan, executive director of the Catholic Community Fund, shared remarks expressing their gratitude to be partners with the Marr family in distributing funds to the Catholic schools.

Daniel F. Marr III, chairman of the Marr Companies, also spoke, sharing some of his family's history.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester was founded in 1974 by Robert L. Marr and Daniel F. Marr, Jr., in honor of their father, Colonel Daniel Marr, who had passed away five years earlier.

"They recognized that this area needed a safe place, a safe haven, for children," Marr III said.

When Daniel Marr, Jr. passed away in 1991, he left a bequest for the Archdiocese of Boston. From that, the Marr Family Catholic Schools Scholarship Program was established. It was later augmented by an endowment from Robert Marr, who passed away in August and was honored with a moment of silence by the assembly.

Both endowments are managed by the archdiocese's Catholic Community Fund and, over the years, have provided over $1.5 million in scholarships for more than 2,000 students.

Marr III expressed his gratitude to the BGCD's staff, saying, "We are truly blessed to have such wonderful staff and their leadership that they provide."

He asked the scholars to reflect on two words: "pride" and "commitment."

"Proud is what you have made your parents, your family, your friends and school. It is your commitment to excel that has brought you to this auditorium," Marr III said.

This was evident as Mishaliz Melo, a BGCD alumnus and former scholarship recipient, shared her story with the students and their families.

"The scholarship you all are receiving tonight motivated me to strive for success. I saw what was possible when I received this scholarship, and I knew that this was just the beginning of my journey," she said.

Melo attended Cambridge Matignon High School and had the goal of graduating from college debt-free. She shared that she went on to earn her bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice and criminology at Northeastern University, graduating with less than $6,000 in debt. She said she currently works as the crisis intervention team coordinator for the Brookline Police Department.

"This was all possible due to my education. I will forever be thankful for this opportunity and the ability to see what is possible with scholarships," Melo said.

She urged the scholars to "never take anything for granted."

"I hope this scholarship proves to you that there are people who care about you, your family, and your education," she told them.

After the speaking program, there was a breakout session. The students at each table were encouraged to talk about what they enjoy most in their respective schools, why a Catholic education matters to them, and why the scholarship is important to them.

Scholarship recipient Camila and her mother Lisa spoke with The Pilot after the event. Camila, who is in the fifth grade at St. John Paul II Catholic Academy, has attended art classes and summer programming at the BGCD, and they participated in Zoom programming during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lisa said she found the event "really positive," and was "grateful" to hear the history of the Marr family, who have "been really committed to being generous (and) caring for others."

"I think that's one of the most significant things about what Jesus teaches and what we learn in our Catholic faith, that you stand in solidarity, that it's not just about yourself, so it's really nice to be a part of something that is really living that out," Lisa said.