A gift of four million dollars from Dr. Keith Flaherty ’89 will allow Andover Bread Loaf (A.B.L.) to continue its mission in strengthening public education for underprivileged communities. Flaherty’s contribution is a major component of Andover’s Knowledge and Goodness Campaign, according to Richard Gorham, Associate Director of A.B.L.
During his time at Andover, Flaherty found a mentor in Louis Bernieri, Instructor in English, who started A.B.L. in 1987 and now serves as its Executive Director. For Bernieri, his personal connection to Flaherty made the gift all the more impactful.
“Personally, one of the wonderful things about [Andover] alumni is they’ve been supporting this program. We have foundation funding, but we’ve gotten major funding from our alumni. This gift comes from one of my former students, so it has a deep personal meaning for me. That kind of student-teacher bond is really sacred, and I never want money or anything like that to get in the way, but this was an incredible affirmation for me of the program and that student-teacher relationship,” said Bernieri.
Flaherty was first inspired by A.B.L.’s work when he participated in the program as an Andover student. He eventually reconnected with A.B.L. as an alumnus, seeing the opportunity to give back both to the program and the person who had shaped him years before.
“Andover Bread Loaf was founded when I was in my last two years at Andover, and I went to Lawrence a handful of times, and witnessed the very, very first interactions with young students in Lawrence trying to develop this concept of using writing and expression as a tool for finding one’s voice and being able to portray one’s identity and hopes, aspirations, and so on,” said Flaherty.
According to Flaherty, the gift will ensure that A.B.L. has the resources not only to strengthen its current operations but also to expand its scope.
“The fundraising that’s been able to be done each year has allowed the program to establish its Lawrence base and create early pilot endeavors in next wave sites, but basically, further growth is going to be really challenging without more financial support, so that’s where this gift comes in,” said Flaherty.
Flaherty continued, “My hope is that basically by underwriting the program in its current form, that means that the exact amount of money that has currently been raised annually and I hope will continue to be raised annually from many different Andover constituents… can now be used to grow the program further, either by strengthening the new sites that have already had a footprint established or piloting in another wave beyond the current sites that have already begun to be established.”
Beyond the financial support, Gorham sees the gift as a recognition of the work that A.B.L. has done for over 30 years.
“What this donation will do is allow us to have an endowment, and an endowment gives you confidence that the bills will be paid every year and you’re not scrambling to raise enough money to pay for this year. You know this year is going to be paid for, and you can go raise money for special projects, so it’s going to give us a degree of flexibility that we’ve never had,” said Gorham.
Gorham also believes that the endowment from Flaherty will also provide A.B.L. with financial stability in its coming years.
“We’ve always been planning for the long term, but now we can plan with confidence and with financial security. So it’s got some very real, tangible effects, and it’s also just a deep and incredible honor to think that somebody thinks enough of the work that we’ve been doing to put this kind of money behind it,” continued Gorham.
According to Jineyda Tapia, Instructor in English and Associate Director of A.B.L., the program impacts anywhere from 1200 to 5000 students each year. The defining aspect of A.B.L. for Tapia is the freedom that the students have to express themselves in their work.
“We don’t teach writing, per se. We don’t correct grammatical errors. They can write in their own home language. They can insert artwork to their writing. It’s the freedom that allows kids to experiment with I think one of the truest selves, and once they see themselves within that written work, how their experiences matter in this world. That really sets the program apart, I think, from other engagement programs that I’ve seen in the past,” said Tapia.
Anna Lopez ’19 discovered their love of poetry and writing when they attended A.B.L. workshops in middle school. At Andover, Lopez has worked for A.B.L. as a writing leader, valuing their students’ awareness of their identities.
“Now, there’s a lot more talk about race than when I was in middle school… It’s just great seeing that they’re doing alright and are talking about these issues at an earlier age and being able to acknowledge it when I had no idea. I just know that the future is going to be brighter with them,” said Lopez.
According to Tapia, Flaherty was first inspired to advance the program when he visited A.B.L. one summer and had the opportunity to see their work in action.
“I think [Flaherty] just fell in love again. I remember him that summer just being so excited, and for him to be so generous and give us that peace of mind, that sustainability, that assurance that the program will go on way beyond us to keep making the impact that it’s been making, is just gold,” said Tapia.