14th Annual Boston Cares Awards Honoree Highlight: X-Cel Education

On October 24, 2017 Boston Cares will celebrate the 14th Annual Boston Cares Awards at the Seaport World Trade Center Harborview Ballroom. The Boston Cares Awards honors our outstanding volunteers, volunteer leaders, community and corporate partners for their commitment to making a difference in the Greater Boston community. This year we recognize our community partners specializing in Job & Career Readiness. We are proud to honor X-Cel Education whom we have partnered with for 17 years. Join us in celebrating the accomplishments of all our honorees!

To learn more about the Boston Cares Awards click HERE!

To purchase tickets or sponsor the event click HERE!


image1“I was selling drugs, holding illegal firearms, and I just didn’t have any direction,” said Emmanuel “Manny” Knaggs, Math Instructor and Success Coach at X-Cel Education. Emmanuel wanted to escape this lifestyle but was uncertain of how to do this. His wake up call came when he was incarcerated for nineteen and a half months for engaging in illegal activity.  While in prison Manny came to the realization that, “I deserve more, my family deserves more, and my community deserves more.” After being released he came to X-Cel because he was interested in furthering his education. “I came right over and did College Prep for 14 weeks and [within 4 months of being fully released from prison] I was in college. That’s when the magic started happening,” said Manny. Now he is a mentor to youth, a student at Roxbury Community College pursing Engineering and Mathematics, and an employee at X-Cel Education, the organization that helped change his life.

X-Cel Education is a Boston Cares partner specializing in adult education. They provide targeted instruction and career readiness programs to under-served communities in Greater Boston. X-Cel does not rent or lease any space so the organization isn’t tied to a specific building or location allowing them to set up programs in neighborhoods with the greatest need such as Roxbury, Dorchester, and East Boston. Their free and flexible programs aid adults pursuing high school completion, post-secondary study, and sustainable career paths. Don Sands, co-founder of X-Cel Education explains that, “This is not a GED program. This is a career and college readiness program…and we expect everyone to be working on goals beyond their high school equivalency.” To help people achieve their goals, X-Cel offers rolling admissions and no wait lists so essentially someone could take an assessment test and start classes the next day. This aspect of their programming would not be possible without the support of volunteers.


Volunteers play a significant role in the success of X-Cel’s programming as they instruct almost the entirety of the Math and Writing classes. This allows the X-Cel team to focus on coordinating customized education plans for each student as well as offer rolling admissions. On average about 45 Boston Cares members volunteer at X-Cel each week, many of which are regulars. Volunteers have helped build X-Cel Education’s organizational capacity by instructing classes, building math worksheets, designing the X-Cel website and sign-in system, creating their newsletters, as well as organizing fundraisers and events. Don believes that, “All the parts of our programming that make us different from other programs in Boston could not have been done without volunteers.” These volunteers are passionate about making a meaningful difference in the students’ lives; some actually stay after class or meet with students outside of X-Cel to help those in need additional instruction.

image3Volunteers give their time and skills but also receive a humbling and rewarding experience in return. “I’ve learned the importance of giving back. I’ve been so blessed to have the education that I’ve received so I want to make sure that others are able to accomplish their goals”, says Julie Carithers, a Boston Cares volunteer.  Julie has been a Boston Cares member since October 2014, but she has volunteered throughout her life as a Girl Scout when she was younger and more recently as a Big Sister. When she moved into the city she began volunteering as a way to connect with the community.

Volunteering can be a great opportunity to interact with people from a different background than your own. The adults at X-Cel must overcome many obstacles to further their education but they are motivated despite the challenges they face. “The volunteers motivate me because they work so hard to push the students to be successful without expecting anything return”, says Manny. Through his involvement with X-Cel he has formed close relationships with some volunteers and even considers a member of Boston Cares to be his mentor. He has truly been inspired by Boston Cares volunteers, “Boston Cares has reignited my civil service because when I came out of prison I just wanted to support my family, but seeing the work the volunteers put in has changed my mindset.” While the students at X-Cel have much to gain, the volunteers such as Julie also have a gratifying experience, “when former students will come back and thank me for all I’ve done for them, that is definitely a great moment.”

If you are interested in celebrating the achievements of X-Cel Education as well as our other Job & Career Readiness Partners Collective Impact honorees, you can purchase tickets for the Boston Cares Awards below:


To volunteer with X-Cel Education, check out our Calendar Program: