Tag Archives: David Sochol

Emerson Lovell: ABC Grad Earns Historic Law School Honors

Since its founding nearly 20 years ago, A Better Chance of Westport has had many success stories.

Graduates of the program — through which academically gifted, economically disadvantaged and highly motivated young men of color attend Staples High School, live together with house parents on North Avenue, and give back as much to the town as they get — have gone on to top colleges, and careers in law, finance, business, medicine and the non-profit world.

“06880” has joyfully chronicled many of those achievements.

Add Emerson Lovell to that remarkable list.

Yesterday in Washington, DC, the 2012 Staples and 2016 Duke University political science graduate did something no Howard University School of Law student has done in nearly 10 years.

He graduated first out of 137 students in his class, with the highest academic honor distinction: summa cum laude. The few Howard Law students who earned the same distinction include Goler Teal Butcher in 1957, and Ritu Narula (2010).

At Howard, the Harlem native was vice president of his class, a senior staff editor for the Howard Law Journal, and a student attorney for the Investor Justice and Education Clinic.

“It seems to me it would be difficult to remain humble and quiet and just do your work,” says associate dean of academic affairs Lisa Crooms-Robinson. “But that’s exactly what he did. So unless you were paying really close attention, it’s like ‘surprise!’ I’m incredibly happy for him. He earned every single point.”

“This is a moment of pride for the entire law school community,” adds Danielle Holley-Walker, dean of Howard Law.

“Emerson dedicated himself for 3 years to achieve this goal. His tremendous commitment and talent have paid off. The Howard Law community celebrates this moment with Emerson and his family.”

Emerson says the people around him gave him what he needed to earn the top spot in his class.

“My professors challenged me to be great both inside of the classroom and in life,” he said. “My colleagues ignited my competitive nature and cheered me on. The faculty members always provided a listening ear to help soothe my mind when the challenges of the real world felt like too much.”

Emerson Lovell, during his ABC days in Westport.

He notes the importance of a support group. It should be diverse, and include “colleagues, mentors inside and outside of the field, and family.”

ABC was part of that support group. David and Lori Sochol — Westporters who have long served in leadership roles in the organization — were in Washington yesterday, proudly watching Emerson’s hisoric graduation.

The next step: he has been hired by Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton, the global firm specializing in financial law. He’ll work in their New York office.

Congratulations and good luck, Emerson.

And kudos to your ABC family too!

(For more information on A Better Chance of Westport, click here.)

Christopher Morales’ American Journey

Every year, at the A Better Chance of Westport “Dream Event” fundraising gala, the graduating seniors speak. These remarkable young men are always eloquent, passionate and inspiring.

Earlier this month at Birchwood Country Club, it was Christopher Morales’ turn. He motioned to his parents, Enrique and Maria, sitting proudly a few feet away.

“After all of the hardships they faced,” he said, “they are here tonight to watch me deliver this speech.” He noted that they came to America illegally.

To Donald Trump’s dismay, Christopher added, “these Mexicans are nothing but good people.”

The large crowd erupted in supportive applause. Christopher beamed. His parents had tears in their eyes.

The day after his speech, Christopher Morales took his parents, Maria and Enrique, to New York. It was their first visit to the city.

The day after his speech, Christopher Morales took his parents, Maria and Enrique, to New York. It was their first visit to the city.

After his speech — a wonderful, powerful one — several Latino waiters shook his parents’ hands. And his.

“I didn’t realize I’d be a symbol, or make a difference in their lives,” he says.

For 4 years, he’s made a difference in Westport’s life. Now — like so many other ABC graduates – he’s poised to do so on a larger stage.

Christopher Morales (front row, far left) and the rest of the A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

Christopher Morales (front row, far left) and the rest of the A Better Chance of Westport scholars.

The Morales family’s American story began in 1985. Enrique — in his early 20s — left Mexico City. He crossed from Tijuana to San Diego, where he found work cutting fabric. He had documents for US residency, and sent most of his money back to his family.

On a visit home, his brother introduced him to Maria. When Enrique was back in the States, they wrote each other often. In 1990 they married, in Mexico.

They wanted a better life — one they thought they could find in the US. Maria did not have proper documents. So although her new husband did, he crossed illegally with her. They wanted to be together. (They eventually gained US citizenship, and are now proud Americans.)

They lived in Los Angeles, sharing a tiny house with 6 others. Eventually, Enrique and Maria got a small apartment — 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, a living room and kitchen — in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood.

In their early years in Los Angeles, the Morales family joined friends at the Rose Bowl, for a US-Mexico soccer match.

In their early years in Los Angeles, the Morales family joined friends at the Rose Bowl, for a US-Mexico soccer match.

Juliana was born in 1992. Six years later, Christopher arrived. The family has lived there since.

Juliana attends community college in LA. Christopher’s half-brother is about to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is, however, terminally ill with kidney disease.

“My parents never imagined they’d sit in a country club in Westport, hearing their son display Latino pride,” Christopher says.

“I don’t know what hopes my parents had for me, when I was born. But every day they taught me love and humility.”

Christopher Morales rocks his Mexican heritage, in the halls of Staples High School.

Christopher Morales rocks his Mexican heritage, in the halls of Staples High School.

In 6th grade, they found a charter school for him. It was all the way across the city. But it was a bit better than LA’s public schools. He traveled there every day. He made great friends. His teachers challenged him.

He still visits, whenever he is home. “I want to inspire others,” Christopher explains. Then, quoting Dave Sochol — who, with his ABC board member wife Lori, spoke at the gala — Christopher adds, “If you can change 1 person, you can change the world.”

In the fall of 9th grade, Christopher flew across the country to join the ABC program. Staples High School was enormous. He (with the other program scholars) was a minority.

He was welcomed by many students. Some were less open.

“They grew up together. They didn’t feel the need to welcome newcomers. I understand that,” Christopher says.

But he did not want to be “just another kid in the hallways.” Most days, he wears a tie. He broadcast soccer games, and hosted a bilingual music show, on WWPT radio. He joined Staples Players and the French club. He plays recreation soccer, wrote for Eileen Ogintz’s Taking the Kids website, and studied acting and voice through Music Theatre of Connecticut.

Christopher Morales' head shot, for Staples Players. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Christopher Morales’ head shot, for Staples Players. (Photo/Kerry Long)

He has never been a political person. But as the campaign rhetoric has heated up — and as fervent debates take place in his Government class — he’s paid attention.

“We have to welcome everyone — not separate people by their ethnicities,” Christopher says. “We do need smart immigration policy. But it can’t be unrealistic. Politics is not a game.”

That’s one reason he introduced his parents at the ABC gala — and mentioned their illegal immigrant status pointedly.

“My parents sacrificed so much,” he says. “I have a responsibility to make use of my opportunities. Talking about this is a good reminder of my roots.”

A Better ChanceHe was buoyed by the reaction to his comments at the ABC gala. “The audience respects my values,” Christopher says. “Westport is a great community. I can’t share in the wealth that’s here. But by speaking out, with one simple sentence, I may do some good.”

Like many other Staples seniors, Christopher is waiting to hear from colleges. Unlike many, he will be the first in his family to attend a private institution.

He hopes to major in communications. He’s been mentored by Staples’ Mike Zito — and inspired by Jorge Ramos. He’s studied the Univision news anchor — the main source of news for many immigrants — and hopes one day to make a similar difference.

Wherever he goes, and whatever he does, the Westporters who know Christopher are sure he’ll reach that goal.

When he does, we’ll be proud.

But nowhere near as proud as his parents, Enrique and Maria Morales.