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Oct. 19, 2006 • Volume 15 Number 4

Adrienne Andry tutors Shanee Williams, a senior at Brighton High School. "She's in here all the time helping the kids," says a long-time acquaintance. "We're very proud of her."

Finding Her Niche at BC

Helped by BC as a kid, senior Adrienne Andry now is giving back

By Greg Frost
Staff Writer

As far as inspirational stories go, they don't get much richer than Boston College senior Adrienne Andry's.

Raised in the Commonwealth Housing Development (CHD), a low-income Brighton public housing complex less than two miles from Chestnut Hill, Andry started receiving tutoring by BC student volunteers at a young age.

Determined to defy the odds and make something of herself, she studied hard at Boston Latin and was accepted to BC. And almost as soon as she got here, she turned around and started giving back.

Weeks after she enrolled as an undergraduate, Andry signed on to 4Boston, the campus group that places student volunteers in programs across the city. Just like the stream of BC students who tutored her, Andry has spent the last three years shuttling back and forth between campus and her former home to help kids just like her.

Now in her final year, the chemistry major doesn't want to leave the Heights.

"I didn't really find my niche in life until I came here," she says of BC. "This has been an ideal atmosphere for me. People here think more like I do about service and serving others."

Andry says she is torn between pursuing a career in the sciences or some form of service after graduation, although the scales appear to be tipping toward service.

"I've always wanted to be a social worker," she says, indicating she may apply to the Graduate School of Social Work.

"I love chemistry, but right now I'm in love with service."

Both at BC and at the housing development, people who know Andry have nothing but praise for her.

In the 34 years that Jean Small has lived at CHD, she has seen her share of lows and highs. Among the lows was a long stretch in the 1970s when the housing complex was one of the most dangerous in Boston.

Among the highs, however, has been watching Andry bloom.

As Small and other residents of the housing project fill paper bags with food supplies that members of BC's women's lacrosse team will distribute to needy families in the neighborhood, Andry meets nearby with a high school girl, offering pointers on her college application essay.

"This girl, she is a sweetheart. She's in here all the time helping the kids. We're very proud of her," Small says of Andry.

"She's going to go a long way in life," she adds, crediting Andry's mother for pushing her daughter to succeed.

Andry says her mom raised her and her siblings on her own, going on welfare because she had two sons with severe disabilities who needed her constant and full attention. Andry's older sister was the first person in the family to attend college.

From about the time she started grade school, Andry took advantage of programs offered by the Commonwealth Tenants Association (CTA). Chief among these was the After School Tutoring Program that matched her with BC student volunteers.

Andry stuck with the program as a teenager, even as her peers lost interest - sometimes with highly significant repercussions, she suggests: "A lot of my friends who are girls have kids now."

To CTA Executive Director Alex Danesco '97, who has known Andry since she was in sixth grade, Andry always seemed a shy, quiet girl - until she gave a speech at a Boys and Girls Club banquet dinner midway through her high school career.

"She got up and she said, 'I'm Adrienne Andry and I'm going to be someone,'" Danesco says, recalling how the room suddenly fell silent.

"She said, 'I'm going to graduate from Latin School, I'm going to get into Boston College, I'm going to go to Boston College.' Afterwards, all these adults - rich people who were at the dinner - were coming up and wanting to meet her."

Danesco says Andry serves as a vital role model for young people growing up in CHD.

"She's here all the time," he says. "We've had other kids from the community go to BC, but none had BC in their life as prominently as she did, and none has given back as much as she has."

Andry is this year's recipient of the W. Seavey Joyce, S. J. Community Service Award. She is due to accept the prize at a presentation Nov. 9 in St. Mary's Hall.

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