Marr Scholarship presents to 52 Catholic school students

DORCHESTER -- Annika Celestine believes that a Catholic education "is better than any other education that you can get."

Annika, a senior at Fontbonne Academy in Milton, said that her school has given her more opportunities than she can count.

"I don't think I would have gotten that in public school or charter school," she said. "I am grateful that I'm doing so well because without Fontbonne, I wouldn't have been in the place where I am at now. I wouldn't have been there academically or socially."

Annika was one of 52 Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Boston who received a combined $54,000 in Marr Family Scholarships this year. The need-based annual scholarships go to Catholic school students who are also members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester, where a scholarship ceremony was held on Feb. 27. Annika was one of several speakers at the ceremony who described the impact of a Catholic education.

"It is a privilege to call you Marr scholars," said Cynthia Marr of the Robert and Cynthia Marr Charitable Foundation in her remarks to the students and their families.

The funds for the scholarships come from the Daniel F. Marr Scholarship Endowment Fund and the Robert and Cynthia Marr Charitable Foundation. Since 1992, students have received a total of $1.6 million in Marr scholarships.

"To come back year after year, and looking at audiences just like you that go through this process, it's very fulfilling and rewarding," said Daniel F. Marr III, chairman of the Marr Companies.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester were founded in 1974 by Robert L. Marr and Daniel F. Marr, Jr. as a memorial to their father, Colonel Daniel Marr, who died in 1969. The scholarship fund began in 1991, when Daniel Marr, Jr. left a bequest to the Archdiocese of Boston upon his death that year. Cynthia Marr and her late husband Robert set up an additional endowment. The Catholic Community Fund, a philanthropic fund of the archdiocese, is responsible for managing the endowments and making sure that the scholarship money goes to its intended recipients.

"We're thrilled you have chosen a Catholic education," Catholic Community Fund Executive Director Lynne Sullivan told this year's Marr scholars, "and hope it is a positive step in your life's journey as you learn and grow. We wish you much success and happiness and the knowledge that God loves you today and every day."

Bishop Cristiano Barbosa delivered a blessing at the start of the ceremony, in which he described the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester as being "rooted in the values of respect, innovation, support, and equality." He prayed that the Holy Spirit guide the students to "embrace diversity, nurture growth of their individual gifts, and inspire them in your love."

"We seek your grace to provide unwavering support to those in need, creating a nurturing environment where all can flourish. Let equality be the bedrock of all our endeavors, ensuring that everyone regardless of background finds opportunities to thrive."

In her remarks, Cynthia Marr said that Catholic education is not only the teaching of facts but the teaching of values.

"This is a place where each of you is seen and respected," she said. "This is a place where kindness is valued and where the spirit of service is nurtured."

She told the students that there are opportunities to serve others everywhere in their lives, particularly within their old households.

"Since you have been chosen to be a Marr scholar," she said, "how can you bring a message of love, hope, and care to someone else?"

In his remarks, Daniel Marr told the students to remember two words: commitment and pride.

"Take pride in your own self, in what you do," he said. "Proud is what you will be of your family, friends, and school. It's your commitment to excel that has brought you here to this room and auditorium here this evening."

The final remarks of the night were from Samuel Cintra, a former Marr Scholarship recipient. He came to Dorchester from Cuba when he was 11 years old, knowing no English. The Boys and Girls Club was a place where he could hang out after school, socialize, and play basketball.

"This is the place where I came to when I had nowhere else to go," he said. "And I'm really happy to be here, walking through the gym, seeing a couple of familiar faces, because this is the place that helped to build my character."

He told the students that they may not realize the value of their education now, but they certainly will when they are older. In fact, they are in the same place he was eight years ago.

"Makes me feel really old," he joked.

He attended middle school at Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy in Dorchester and high school at Cathedral High School in Boston, where he graduated at the top of his class.

"I don't say that to show off," he said. "I say that to mean you can get to that level if you just put (in) hard work and effort."

He received a full scholarship to Denison University in Ohio, where he graduated in 2023 with a degree in public health. He said he eventually plans to become a physician but is currently working in real estate. He told the students that he wasn't expecting his life to turn out that way, but that they should take every opportunity as it comes.

"I put my whole life in God's hands," he said.

He concluded his remarks by thanking the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester for everything they did for him.

"I'm forever grateful, and I will definitely keep you guys in my heart forever," he said.