Tag Archives: Jahari Dodd

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.

Telemachus Clay At Toquet

In the 1964 play “Telemachus Clay,” a young man leaves the East Coast for California.  He needs to find himself.

In real life Jahari Dodd left California 4 years ago, also to find himself.  He ended up in Westport, as an ABC Scholar.

Now he’s directing “Telemachus Clay” — a Staples Players studio production that debuts this weekend at Toquet Hall.

Jahari Dodd

“A young person’s journey spoke to me,” Jahari said of his reaction when Players director David Roth showed him the script.  The colorful cast of characters; the play’s ’60s sensibility; the funky yet linear story; the concept of no set, no real makeup, minimal costumes — all impelled Jahari to stage the show.

Toquet — where people sit in chairs and couches — is a perfect venue for “Telemachus.”  “When you walk in, you know it’s not your average show,” says Jahari.  “It’s like a place where audiences would watch this play in the 1960s.

“All the action goes out to the audience,” Jahari explains.  “The actors are part of the crowd.  Characters run out the back, and come from the fly.  Everyone in the audience should feel a Telemachus-like connection, because all of us should go on a journey to find ourselves.”

As a director, Jahari’s biggest challenge has been to get his actors as loose and fun as the show is.  “It’s hard to pull a spiritual experience out of a high school kid,” he notes.  “But the cast has gone out of their comfort zone.  And I think the audience will feel as free and loose as the cast.”

Glenn Leo and Rachel Samuels rehearse. (Photo by Jillian Bosshardt)

Glenn Leo, as Telemachus, “embodies the young man who’s searching, but knows he lost,” Jahari says.

Jahari is excited to have Whitney Andrews play The Prophet.  Though written for a male, the role seems perfect for her.  “My mother is a pastor, very open and exuberant,” Jahari says.  “I saw the same free-flowing child of the ’60s in Whitney.  The audience will really be drawn to her.”

Jahari — who in addition to directing has been a dancer, TV star and all-around goodwill ambassador for Staples — graduates in June.  “Telemachus Clay,” he says, is “the best way for me to give back to a theater program that’s given so much to me.”

Four years ago, Jahari Dodd came East.  Here he has found a home, resounding success — and himself.

(“Telemachus Clay” will be performed at Toquet Hall, 58 Post Road East — access through the alley to Jesup Road — this Friday [March 12] at 8 p.m., and Saturday [March 13] at 6 and 8:30 p.m.  Tickets are available at the door, and for Staples students during lunch periods this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.)

Jahari Dodd: MSG’s Newest Star

When MSG Varsity — an ambitious new cable show highlighting outstanding high school students — approached Staples principal John Dodig for suggestions, he was ready.  “If you’re looking for nuggets,” he said, “you’ve walked into a gold mine.”

The first show profiled Staples’ 2nd-place-in-the-world robotics team.  It provided an in-depth look at the innovative teens, complete with action shots of the robot.

Tonight at 6 p.m. (Cablevision Channel 14), MSG Varsity features senior Jahari Dodd.  Using interviews with Dodig, Staples Players director David Roth and Jahari himself, the show spotlights his many activities:  ABC House Scholar, actor, dancer, activist and role model.

There are 8 million — well, 1,700 — stories at Staples High School.  Be sure not to miss this special one.

Jahari Dodd

Jahari Dodd