ABC House Has — And Fulfills — A Dream

In 2002, A Better Chance of Westport was just a dream.

ABC logoIn the 14 years since, the ABC program has fulfilled dreams. Young men have come from across America to Glendarcy House, on the corner of North Avenue and Cross Highway. They’ve attended Staples High School, and gotten deeply involved in school and community activities.

They’ve gone on to college, and embarked on careers. They’re already getting married. They’re success stories, and Westport should be enormously proud of them.

Every year in March, ABC holds its annual fundraiser. This year, they celebrate a great achievement: They now have 20 graduates.

Quite appropriately, the fundraiser is called ABC’s “Dream Event.”

The evening — set for Saturday, March 19 (7 p.m., Birchwood Country Club) — is always inspiring. One of the highlights is speeches by graduating seniors. Adrian Belvitt, Thomas Jones and Chris Morales — 3 very different young men, with a broad range of talents and experiences — will give insightful talks.

ABC House seniors (from left) Adrian Blevitt, Thomas Jones and Christopher Morales.

ABC House seniors (from left) Adrian Blevitt, Thomas Jones and Christopher Morales.

So will Emerson Lovell. Four years ago, he spoke as an ABC senior. This year, he graduates from Duke University. He’s very active in black politics there, and this fall heads to law school.

He’s just one of nearly 2 dozen young men whose lives have been impacted by ABC House. Shamir Clayton is earning an MBA at the University of Rochester. Jay Dodd is a noted blogger. Wesley Lemon is a chef in North Carolina, is also pursuing a music career (he sings at the Dream Event each year) — and is the 1st ABC House graduate to also have a baby.

Jeffrey Arias got married last year. Charles Winslow can’t make the Dream Event — he’s getting married the same day, to a woman in med school.

“Our mission is to give these young men a better chance,” says Dream Event organizer Lori Sochol. “Through that, they will touch other lives.”

Emerson Lovell

Emerson Lovell

Those are not just warm-and-fuzzy ideals. Emerson Lovell, for example — the Dream Event keynote speaker — inspired his younger sister to go to college. She’s there now.

The Dream Event is one of the highlights of my year. I can’t imagine a more powerful fundraiser.

Or a more fun one. There’s a fantastic auction, which this year will be bigger and better than ever. A new online system allows anyone to bid in real time that night — even if they’re not there. (Pre-bidding begins March 12 — click here for details, then scroll down.)

ABC’s mission is simple, and important: to provide academically gifted, economically disadvantaged and highly motivated African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native American young men the opportunity to live in our community and study at Staples.

Through an education tough to get in their home communities, it is hoped they’ll assume positions of responsibility and leadership in their careers, communities and families..

With 8 scholars, ABC's Glendary House is at capacity this year.

With 8 scholars, ABC’s Glendary House is at capacity this year.

But the ABC graduates — 20, this June — have given at least as much to Westport

You can meet them, and hear their stories, at the March 19 Dream Event.

When you do, you’ll realize that dreams — the ABC organizers’, the scholars’, and all of ours for a better world — really can come true.

(For tickets, more information and auction details, click on www.ABetterChanceofWestport.org, then scroll down.)

Here’s a look at the day in the life of ABC House:

Here’s a look back at the 2014 Dream Event:

7 responses to “ABC House Has — And Fulfills — A Dream

  1. I was very moved by what I just read and will absolutely support this fundraiser. Investing in our youth is one of the most long term impactful ways for this country to continue to provide a better life for the next generation.
    I have a few questions that I am curious about for someone who is much more familiar with this program:
    One, the young men are living here away from their families. How do you build in enough support at the house for these 8 scholars that provides nurturing, some form of parental involvement, mentoring and one on one support? Do most scholars return home for the summer and lose the opportunity to have a typical summer with class mates working around town and hanging with friends from school or do they go back to their respective families and spend the summer on what I imagine would be a much more dangerous and impoverished neighborhood?
    Lastly, the description of scholars was highly motivated economically disadvantaged African American, Latino, Asian American and Native American, I was disappointed motivated and economicslly disadvantaged Caucasian youth were excluded from being a scholar. It read like a deserving category is being excluded because of their race. That will not stop me from contributing though to such a impactful program.

    • Thanks, Craig. It’s a fantastic program — one of Westport’s best (and there are many great ones here).

      I can only speak generally about the support — others more familiar with it can chime in too. One of the main components is indeed support and nurturing. Through the house parents, mentoring programs involving community members, host families (who welcome the ABC scholars in on weekends and holidays), and other volunteers who drive them to activities and appointments around town, the ABC program leaders make sure that these great young men are not simply dumped into a new environment and left to find their own way.

      In terms of summer, I believe the philosophy is that it is important for them to spend time with their own families, and reconnect with friends from their hometowns. I think the ABC scholars serve as role models too, showing their siblings and hometown friends that there is a big world beyond their neighborhoods.

      As I said, others more familiar with ABC can add their thoughts here as well.

  2. Craig, thanks for the great questions. The Scholars at A Better Chance of Westport are supported in multiple ways. In addition to our Resident Directors who supervise the boys day-to-day, each Scholar is matched with a Westport family with whom he spends every Sunday and one full weekend a month. Our active Board of Directors is also intimately involved in the lives of our Scholars and, of course, the teachers and teenagers (& their parents) of Staples HS play a critical role during the four years in Westport. Our Scholars do a variety of activities over the summer. Many go home, while others stay in Westport to work, prepare for sports or study for the SATs/ACTs. In recent years we have been more active in helping our Scholars (especially our juniors) find academic and travel opportunities (last summer, Thomas went to UMichigan, Christopher went to France and Adrian was at Yale).

    The answer to your question about the backgrounds of our Scholars is a bit involved but I’ll try to be concise: we are an independent 501c3, 100% funded by local families and businesses. But, we are affiliated by charter with the national organization A Better Chance (www.abetterchance.org). As such, we are required to take our Scholars from applications we receive from the national organization. A Better Chance was started in 1963 through a grant from The Charles E. Merrill Foundation in response to President John F. Kennedy’s call for equal access to the nation’s top schools for minority students. In the early years of A Better Chance, all Scholars went to private boarding and day schools. In the 1970s, the Community School Program was created to offer excellent public school education to the mix. A Better Chance of Westport/Staples HS is one of 25 such programs.

    Please let me know if you have additional questions.

    Eric Seidman
    President, A Better Chance of Westport

  3. Hi Dan, Well, i learned something today!  Ialways had thought that ABC house was forwomen???   Had heard someone at the Y talking about it several years back!Is there a home like that for women?? I also learned something else yesterday when I got a fwd letter from the tax office saying I owed back taxes on my car.   I DID NOT KNOW that if the car is still registered in WP (which it is as I had lost the title and had to send to DMV for a new one WHICH ONLY took 2 months to get back to me!!!!!   I just got the new Title a month or so OK and Rob has to take me to register it here.  I talked with Theresa in tax office (she is very nice and always has been helpful), and she told me – yes, I had to pay it and would be getting another bill in July!!So much fun to move!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   At least it’s only $101!!!!!!   I sure am learning alot of “stuff” that I wish Inever had to learn!!!Anyway, the pluses are still HERE — lovely weather – this is winter here also so cool at night (40’s) and going up into 50’s day – maybe 70 this weekend –NOW — I guess I can along with that!!!!Maybe some other people aren’t aware of all the “little laws” about things when we move!!!  Maybe I should write a book!!!Sandy

  4. Thanks so much, Dan, for a wonderful piece on a truly wonderful organization that I am proud to be associated with. As both you and Eric Seidman have pointed out, one of the many ways in which ABC of Westport provides nurturing and mentoring to our scholars is through our host family program. Each of the boys is paired with a family that welcomes him into their home every Sunday and one full weekend each month. (We also provide alternate families to act as back-ups for each of the scholars.) My co-chair for host families, Diane Johnson, and I have both had the pleasure of hosting fabulous young men who are now alumni and with whom our families have maintained loving relationships. If you are interested in learning more about hosting, please contact Diane (radydian@optonline.net) or me (nyates@post.harvard.edu).