Tag Archives: Shamir Clayton

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:

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.”