Tag Archives: Lori 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.

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:

ABC House Now Offers “A Better Connection”

In less than a decade and a half, A Better Chance of Westport has impacted the lives of dozens of young men. It’s helped provide excellent education, a chance at college, a boost up in life. (It’s also benefited many Westporters, who have learned plenty from the ABC scholars. But that’s another story.)

Though still in their 20s, ABC graduates are making their mark in business, finance and the arts.

And — as young as they are — they’ve already decided it’s time to give back.

A Better ChanceCharles Winslow leads the charge. Raised by his father in Brooklyn, he first heard of the national ABC program from his 8th grade guidance counselor. His initial reaction — “No way! I want to be cool in high school” — slowly gave way to the realization that it might open some doors.

He went through the process — SSATs, recommendation letters, interviews, a visit to Westport — and in 2005 arrived at Glendarcy House on North Avenue.

“I was a 13-year-old African American boy from Brooklym, in an affluent town of Caucasians,” Charles recalls.

“It was a culture shock. The academics at Staples were rigorous. I didn’t know what I got myself into. I called my dad every day.”

Charles Winslow, as an ABC scholar in 2008.

Charles Winslow, as an ABC scholar in 2008…

Like the other ABC scholars, he studied 3 to 4 hours a day. He did chores. Gradually — with help from older boys in the house, the house parents, and a cadre of ABC volunteers — he made his way.

Then he made his mark.

Charles became a 3-year volleyball starter, and senior captain (and won state and FCIAC championships every year he was on the team). He was co-vice-president of Junior Achievement, made money for the club, and traveled to Canada for a conference.

ABC graduate Savion Agard encouraged Charles to apply to Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Charles was hesitant, but — with the help of Freudingman & Billings — he got in.

Charles continued to thrive at Cornell. He played club volleyball, tutored children, and spent a “life-changing” Semester at Sea, visiting the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal, Vietnam, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Panama Canal.

He’s now an analyst in the real estate division of Goldman Sachs. During lunch breaks, he volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

But he wants to do even more.

and in 2013, beginning his career at Goldman Sachs.

…and in 2013, beginning his career at Goldman Sachs.

When he was at ABC House, Charles realizes, there were not yet any graduates making it in the working world. He had no professional role models from the program; no one to ask questions only a former ABC scholar would know how to answer.

Now there are.

Charles spoke with Steve Daniels — a Westporter, African American and corporate executive who’s been a great mentor to many ABC scholars. They devised an idea for an informal mentorship program, matching young ABC graduates with current scholars. ABC vice president Lori Sochol helped Charles refine the plan.

“There are so many things to talk about: grades, being away from home, assimilating, careers.” Charles says. “Every year we come back for the Dream Event [annual fundraiser], but we don’t really know the guys who are in the house now. This is a way to enhance that, so we can use the networks and relationships we’ve formed to help them.”

This month, the program — called A Better Connection (get it?) — begins. Charles has recruited a group of mentors. Each is assigned a mentee. They’ll talk for a minimum of 30 minutes every 2 weeks. Hopefully, deeper relationships will follow.

Charles envisions more, too: social events, a listserv to share ideas and information.

The 2014-15 ABC House scholars.

The 2014-15 ABC House scholars.

“As students of color, we got a great education in Westport,” Charles says. “But it’s important for those of us who are doing great things now, thanks to that, to help and network with younger students of color.”

This year’s Dream Event is Saturday, March 28 (7 p.m., Birchwood Country Club). Charles will be there, speaking about A Better Connection. He and other ABC grads will meet the current scholars — and their individual mentees.

One of Westport’s most valuable and meaningful programs is about to get even “better.”

(For more information on the Dream Event, click here.)