Earlier this summer, A Better Chance was on the hunt for host families.
The wonderful program brings students from underserved schools to Westport, to attend Staples and become part of our community.
But it was having a tough time attracting families to give the ABC scholars a weekend and vacation home away from their new home.
Last year’s A Better Chance of Westport scholars.
I posted a story/plea. Board member Nancy Yates describes what happened next:
We received many inquiries from interested families after your post. Some decided that hosting might not be for them after all. But many others were enthusiastic about helping out in whatever role we could offer them.
We’re now fully manned with both primary and alternate host families for each of our 8 scholars, as well as a cadre of substitute families eager for an opportunity to fill in as needed.
That’s good news. But this is even better:
Ruben Guardado, speaking at ABC’s annual fundraising dinner.
The family who will serve as primary hosts for the new freshman whose lack of a host family prompted ABC’s request has a special connection with Ruben Guardado. He’s the former scholar whose photo was featured in the post.
Ruben was a mentor for their older son through a 4th grade book club 5 years ago. It was a very positive experience for Ruben and the young boy.
The son has just entered Staples. He’s now helping the ABC scholar acclimate to Westport.
Nancy says: “This is a perfect illustration of what you remark upon so often in your posts about ABC: The scholars give back to the Westport community, and make the town a better place.
“And now the town — which has shown it does indeed have a heart — is giving a hand up to a scholar who’s destined to repeat the cycle.”
For well over a decade, A Better Chance of Westport has enriched the lives of youngsters from underserved communities. They in turn have given much back to Staples High School, and our entire town.
It’s not easy for young teenagers to leave homes far away — and very different lives — for Glendarcy House on North Avenue. The resident directors there — where the 8 ABC scholars live during the week — provide vital support and encouragement.
The 2016 A Better Chance of Westport scholars.
But they need some breaks. And the teens need to get out, become part of Westport and forge individual identities.
A special part of the ABC program pairs each scholar with a host family. They share every Sunday (except during school breaks), and one full weekend a month.
It’s a win-win. The ABC youngsters enjoy the benefits of a family life away from their real families; they in turn give their host families (including kids) a new perspective on what’s important in life, a window into another culture — and tons of fun.
Last March, at ABC’s annual fundraiser, Deirdre Teed described how excited her children were when they learned their family had been selected to host Thomas Jones. “We won! We won!” they shouted.
Over 4 years, the relationship had its ups and downs. But it grew steadily deeper, Deirdre said — and will last for years.
With Thomas on the brink of graduation, Deirdre repeated — emphatically and tearfully — “We won!”
When ABC scholars address the annual fundraiser, they describe with love and awe their relationshp with host families. In 2014, Ruben Guardado spoke with confidence and poise.
With so many benefits flowing in both directions, you’d think there would be a long list of Westport families eager to host.
You would be wrong.
Over the years, it’s become increasingly difficult for ABC volunteers to recruit new families. Surprisingly, it’s especially tough to find those with a student or 2 of their own at Staples — the best scenario for a “new kid” trying to fit in there.
In just a few weeks, 3 new scholars arrive. The program is still 1 family short.
That means ABC can’t provide a wonderful 13-year-old coming all the way from California with the support and continuity that are the hallmarks of a host-family relationship.
He’s an honors student who plays alto sax, runs cross country and is an altar server at his church.
He values “communication, cooperation and trust,” and hopes ABC can help him fulfill his potential.
The Westport family lucky to share their lives with him will, in turn, be supported by the ABC organization.
Each host family has an alternate family that can step in when life is just too complicated. There’s also a network of volunteers and staff, ready to consult and counsel.
ABC officials are surprised at how tough it’s been to find host families. That’s not the Westport they know. And it’s not the Westport that scholars grow to know, during their wonderful — if not always smooth — years here.
Becoming a host family is not always as easy as 1-2-3. But learning more is as simple as ABC.
For information on becoming a host family, contact Nancy Yates (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michael Wolfe (email@example.com).
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