ABCD University High School Celebrates the Class of 2024

Keynote exhortation to graduates – use life’s challenges as a springboard to success    

(BOSTON, MA) — On Friday, June 14, students from ABCD’s University High School (UHS) crossed the graduation stage with diplomas in hand and plans for the future. UHS is ABCD’s alternative high school for Boston students ages 16 to 22 whose needs aren’t met in traditional academic settings. UHS operates in partnership with the Boston Public Schools – Boston Collaborative High School. The class of 2024 is off to a running start —  all graduates are slated to continue their studies at local colleges in the fall and/or are employed full or part-time. Boston residents can learn more about UHS here.

ABCD President and CEO Sharon Scott-Chandler expressed her satisfaction with the 2024 graduating class. “I am so proud of our graduates and the community that helped them get here – our UHS faculty and staff, family and the Boston Public Schools,” she said. “The fact that all of our students have post-graduation plans lined up now – continued education through Boston’s community college system, ongoing full and part-time employment, and participation in ABCD’s Career Explorations program that allows youth to earn a paycheck while they gain training and experience in high demand fields, speaks to the efficacy of University High School’s work in lifting and preparing young people for the next phase of their lives.”  

Grader Than CEO Harris Williams served as the UHS commencement speaker at the ABCD Thelma D. Burns Building. Williams is an educator and software engineer with a 12-year tenure as a full-stack developer, with proficiency in numerous programming languages. Through innovative teaching and a commitment to social equity through Grader Than, Harris is at the forefront of bridging the digital divide. His work emphasizes the importance of creating inclusive environments that foster a diverse and empowered generation of tech leaders. He envisions a future where technology education is a catalyst for social change, accessible to all and instrumental in shaping an equitable tech ecosystem. 

An educational technology innovator, Harris earned a Bachelor of Arts in computer science and an MBA from Boston College. He founded Mental Rep, a sports AI company that revolutionized football coaching, gaining international acclaim. He later turned to academia, becoming a computer science professor at Bunker Hill Community College and Boston College.

Williams recounted to UHS graduates his own academic struggles as a student athlete at Boston College. “I had bad grades in college – C’s D’s and F’s. I wanted to be a neurologist. But I got an A in computer science. My success began with failure,” he said. “Accept the challenges that you’re facing so that you can move forward. The obstacle is the way. It gives you strength vs. defining your limitations. Stay hungry, stay curious and bring that spirit into this world.”

Sherann Jackson-Alkins, head of school and director at University High School, said that alternative education is vital for youth who struggle in traditional academic settings. “Smaller classes, more individualized attention, fewer distractions, a project based curriculum and support services that address underlying issues make all the difference,” she said. “Alternative education provides a platform for personalized learning, fosters creativity, critical thinking and opens doors to diverse avenues of success.” 

University High School 2023/2024 Highlights

  • As part of ABCD’s Commonwealth Restorative Justice Community Grant work, UHS created its Light Saver initiative — a week-long student centered experience that included whole body wellness, mindfulness and meditation, mental health and mindset for wellness, restorative mediation and restorative discipline. In addition, the African Explosion event featured Sir Taylor, a self defined peacemaker and an original member of the Jesse White Tumblers in Chicago—a training program that provides a positive alternative for urban youth ages 6 to 16. As a form of service, UHS students hosted ABCD’S Walnut Grove Head Start students at an evening cultural dance hosted by Sir Taylor followed by a community dinner. 
  • UHS launched the Firebird Cafe as part of its workforce development programming. The cafe offers lemonade, iced tea, iced coffee, bagels and breakfast sandwiches in the morning, during lunch and at the end of the school day. The model coincides with the Boston Public Schools food program in which students have to heat and eat their food. The goal is to grow the model and train students in food service and food safety. Firebird Cafe currency is the US Dollar and UHS Bucks which students can earn by meeting individual goals, through service or by doing a good deed. 
  • Led by UHS educator Joe Cain, students created the Rise and Thrive refreshment which will be served at Houghton’s Pond concession stand this summer. The concession stand was refurbished by Rise and Thrive Education, Inc. established by Cain for the sole purpose of making it accessible to summer beachgoers. The concession stand will serve as an 2024 ABCD SummerWorks host site.  

UHS students RISE! through Resilience, Integrity, Scholarship and Empowerment. Along with a diploma, graduates leave with an educational plan, knowledge, skills, and the support to achieve their goals as a lifelong learner in education, career and civic participation.

The 2024 University High School Graduating Class 

Alex Douglas: Dorchester, Roxbury Community College

Jahsenica Parker: Dorchester, Full time work + Bunker Hill Community College

Yazmine Vega: Dorchester, Bunker Hill Community College

Dajuanay Colon: Dorchester, ABCD Career Explorations 

Deana Eures: Dorchester, MassBay Community College

Julissa Grullon: Dorchester, Full-time supervisor at Star Market/Community College Fall 2025

Zhaniya “Ni” Lewis: Dorchester, Bunker Hill Community College

D’Onie Sanchez: Dorchester, Continuing career in culinary arts

Abigail Brown: Mattapan, MassBay Community College

Aaliyah Oviedo: Mattapan, ABCD Career Explorations

Ta’keeria Sherrod-Greene: Mission Hill, Full-time at Brigham and Women’s Hospital + Bunker Hill Community College 

Janijah Martin-White: Hyde Park, MassBay Community College

Syleena Borrero: Hyde Park, Bunker Hill Community College

Jefferson Brice: Hyde Park, Seeking a career in construction 

Darius Rogers: West Roxbury, Freelance computer programming. Aspires to attend Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology 

Felix Sanchez: West Roxbury, Massachusetts School of Barbering