East Boston Times 2018 Persons of the Year

Kerri Abrams, 2018 Woman of the Year

It was perhaps the most unselfish act one person could do for another but once Kerri Abrams learned that longtime East Boston resident John Nucci was in desperate need of a lifesaving kidney transplant she did not hesitate.

Woman of the Year Kerri Abrams (right) with John Nucci and his wife, Peggy. Abrams donated her kidney to save Nucci life in June.

Life came full circle for Nucci and Abrams, who owns Kinship Florist in Revere.

Thirty-five years ago Abrams’ parents, Kim and Al, were political supporters and friends of Nucci. At the time Nucci nor the Abrams could have ever guessed that Kim and Al’s daughter would donate her kidney to help save Nucci’s life nearly four decades later.

Nucci, 66, suffers from Polycystic Kidney Disease, the same kidney disease that killed his dad at the age of 64. He and Abrams underwent the lifesaving kidney transplant surgery in June.

“My kidneys went from 12 percent down to two percent since February,” said an emotional Nucci on the eve of his surgery Monday evening. “Kerri is just an amazing and brave woman. To read about my story, step up and undergo all the testing and agreeing to go through with donating her kidney to me after she found out she was a match is something that is so moving to me and my family.”

In fact, when Nucci first met Abrams’ parents decades ago he was well aware that someday he would need a kidney transplant to save his life.

“Everything was finalized in May,” said Nucci. “Testing continued right up until last week. We are both in good shape, we are both healthy but I still ask for everyone’s prayers.”

Nucci, Suffolk University’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs that also sits on the Massport board of directors, joked that if it wasn’t for a delayed flight at Logan Airport Abrams may have never come forward.

“The funny thing is, as a Massport board member, I’m suppose to help solve delays at Logan,” Nucci laughed. “But Kerri was stuck at Logan because of a delay and read my story in the newspaper. It was then she decided to sign up and begin testing.”

“The emotion I feel is gratitude,” said Nucci. “Gratitude for Kerri. I feel like I’m the luckiest guy on earth to have this second chance at life. The one thing that this entire ordeal has taught me is that I have the greatest friends and family in the world.”

Nucci’s wife, Peggy, and his sons, John, Michael and Daniel, and dozens of friends and supporters also said they would be forever grateful for Abrams’ bravery.

“There are no words for us to thank all of you for what you’ve done for John,” said Peggy Nucci. “What more can be said about her? She saved John’s life and truly is an angel.”

Jordan Weymer, 2018 Man of the Year

Since taking over the reigns at the Donald McKay School in East Boston Principal Jordan Weymer has elevated the school’s profile and achievements not only in Eastie but the entire city.

This year the McKay, under Weymer’s leadership,  won the prestigious EdVestors Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize.

In the award’s 13 year history no Eastie school has ever received the $100,000 prize.

For this Jordan Weymer is the East Boston Times 2018 Man of the Year.

“It feels incredible,” said Weymer after his school won the award this year. “The best thing about it is the support we’ve received from the community and other schools. You don’t do this work for the awards you do it to make a difference but this award just confirms the great work the teachers and kids are doing at our school.”

For the past 13 years EdVestors, a school improvement organization in Boston, has awarded its $100,000 Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize to recognize rapidly-improving schools that have made exemplary progress in advancing the academic achievement of all students.

“Great schools like Donald McKay are the beating heart of our city and I applaud the teachers and staff at the school for being awarded this year’s School on the Move Prize,” said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.

The McKay is a K-8 school where 60 percent of students are English Language Learners (EL). The 800-student Donald McKay K-8 has experienced significant growth under Weymer’s leadership– climbing steadily from the bottom 6 percent of schools statewide six years ago, to surpassing the district average in literacy and math by empowering teachers as the experts and decision-makers in their classrooms and as leaders of the school.

Weymer said the McKay has focused on building trust among teachers, students and families, and meeting the academic and social emotional needs of its English learners, who make up a majority of the school’s population.

“We call it our ‘choice and voice’ culture, where we encourage schoolwide engagement among students, teachers and families to determine the best path forward in our individual classrooms,” said Weymer. “Our school is a reflection of our community, in population and approach. We remain committed to not only improving grades and outcomes for all students, but also to the social and emotional needs of our families and EL students by maintaining a safe and welcoming school community for all.”

The McKay’s student population is 89 percent Latino, 60 percent of whom are EL students and more than 50 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged. In order to achieve this empowering and inclusive atmosphere for all students, the McKay refers to their EL students as “Emerging Bilinguals” – emphasizing that their first language is an asset rather than a roadblock.

Weymer has also partners with multiple community organizations in the area to provide bilingual counseling to students and families, and keep immigrant families informed on their rights. Students at the McKay take much of the community building efforts into their own hands as well, putting on an annual “Immigrant Pride Week” to inform, advocate for and empower the school’s students and families.

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