Tag Archives: Anthony Soto

ABC House Celebrates Dreams And Successes

The house — low-slung, red-brick, nondescript — is easy to miss. It’s at the corner of North Avenue and Cross Highway; most drivers just want to get through the crowded 4-way intersection without getting hit.

But “Glendarcy House” is one of the most special places in Westport.

ABC's Glendarcy House on North Avenue.

ABC’s Glendarcy House on North Avenue.

For 14 years, it’s been home to A Better Chance. Over 2 dozen young men of color have benefited from the chance to study at Staples High School, participate in extracurricular and town activities, and develop their natural gifts and talents in a way that might not have been possible in their economically disadvantaged hometowns.

Along the way, they have given back to Westport at least as much as they’ve gotten. They contribute their time, energy and outsize personalities to countless classes, projects, organizations and causes. They enrich the lives of their classmates, teachers and host families, in immeasurable ways.

Hundreds of Westporters have helped make ABC the success it is. They’ve volunteered in areas like fundraising, academic support, transportation and home renovation.

It’s a wonderful relationship — one that goes both ways, and radiates in many directions. On Saturday, March 29 (7 p.m., Unitarian Church), ABC honors its scholars, volunteers and itself with the annual “Dream Event.” There are lots of townwide celebrations, for tons of worthy causes, but this is one of the best.

A Better Chance alumni enjoying last year's Dream Event.

A Better Chance alumni enjoying last year’s Dream Event. Seated (from left): Jahari Dodd, Charles Winslow, Wesley Lemon, Shamir Clayton. Standing: Jonathan Choi, Savion Agard, Khalif Rivers, Stephan Patterson.

Most of the scholar alumni will be there. Among them: Anthony Soto, the 1st to get his master’s degree (it’s in business administration, from Assumption College).

Also in the spotlight: Jahari Dodd. Well known to Staples Players fans, he will graduate this year from Tufts — the 16th ABC/Staples alum to earn a college diploma.

Taking center stage are Khaliq Sanda and Ruben Guardado, 2 young men who will graduate from Staples in June.

This year's ABC scholars.

This year’s ABC scholars.

Khaliq works after school at Internal Medicine Associates. He also tutors; has been involved with Key Club, Peer Advisors, Student Assembly and Student Ambassadors; is an active member of Saugatuck Congregational Church, and served on 3 mission trips across the US. Khaliq was accepted at Vanderbilt and wait-listed by Stanford. He hopes to study neuroscience, with the goal of becoming a psychiatrist.

“I am truly grateful for all this community has done for me,” Khaliq says. “I look forward to finding ways to give back in the future.”

ABC logoRuben created ABC’s new website, and as a member of Service League of Boys (SLOBs) helps maintain their website too. He tutors elementary age students in Bridgeport through Caroline House; is a Student Ambassador at Staples, rock climbs in Fairfield, and plays rec soccer. He plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering.

“I want to thank the long list of members of the ABC community who have done so much for me,” Ruben says. “It has been a great learning experience, and I am glad I decided to attend Staples.”

The Dream Event is very cool. There’s a silent auction, great entertainment and food, and much more. It’s all fun, and very special.

But the real reason to go: speeches from Ruben, Khaliq, Jahari and Anthony, this year’s high school and college graduates. All 4 will bring tears to your eyes — and a smile to your face.

Click here for tickets to the Dream Event; RSVPs are due this Friday, March 7. That’s also the day the online auction begins, at www.abetterchanceofwestport.org
Here’s a video made 4 years ago, commemorating ABC’s 1st 10 years. Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.

An ABC House Landmark

A Better Chance of Westport is proud of many things:  The character and work ethic of the young “scholars” in its program.

The spirit of the ABC House on North Avenue.

The support of Westport families, institutions and businesses to help the ABC scholars achieve their dreams.

Now ABC points with pride to something else:  Its 1st 2 scholars have graduated from college.

Earlier this month, Shamir Clayton walked down the aisle at Emory University.  A few days later, Anthony Soto did the same at Assumption College.

Shamir — an economics major — heads to Orlando, to work for Coca-Cola in sales and marketing.  He just bought his 1st car, and plans to pursue a graduate degree.

Anthony — a business major — may work, or enroll directly in an MBA program.

They’ve come a long way from their 1st days in Westport, back in 2002.

Anthony Soto and Shamir Clayton, during their first days in the ABC program -- 8 years ago.

 “It’s hard to be an ABC scholar,” notes ABC co-president Gail Cohen.

There are high academic standards, and social restrictions.  ABC scholars can’t drive, for example, and spend 3 hours studying each night.

“But these kids come away with a skill set that enables them to be that much more successful,” Cohen says.  “When a college sees what our kids have gone through, they realize they’re stand-up young men who can succeed on their own.

“They go to college knowing how to study, and how to interface with different kinds of people.”

Scholars maintain their relationship with ABC long after leaving Staples.  The program provides money for books in college.  Graduates are invited back for the annual Dream Event fundraiser — and asked to speak, if they want.

Anthony returned one year with his girlfriend.  He wanted to show her the place that meant so much to him, at a crucial point in his life.

“Anthony and Shamir grew up with us,” co-president Lee Bollert says. 

“When they came here, we were like new parents.  We’d never done this before.  But their families trusted us with their sons.

“We probably made some mistakes.  And they had no older kids to guide them.  They had to be brave, and be able to take risks.  We appreciate them taking us on, as much as we took them on.”

And now — like “parents” everywhere — everyone associated with ABC will wipe away a tear, wish their “sons” well, and watch proudly as Anthony and Shamir make their way in the world.

While telling them, of course, that they’re always welcome back “home.”