A Convergence of Hearts and Minds

Ann Kane Seidman with Steven Gill, ABC-SH 2001, Duke 2005:”I was absolutely delighted to see Steven again. We were his host family for his four years at Strath Haven. I still feel so very, very close to him. And although he still looks like a kid, he’s now a mature, incredibly articulate adult. I was really  involved with ABC for 10 years, first as a host mother and then on the Board, where my job was organizing transportation for both houses. I really enjoyed taking the kids places, because it was my opportunity to get to know them. I just couldn’t give enough hugs to the returning alums who had meant so much to me during those years and from the hugs I got in return, I know that the feelings were mutual This was a wonderful celebration of the hard work and successes of countless volunteers, and an even greater celebration of alums — a great evening!”

Ann Kane Seidman with Steven Gill, ABC-SH 2001, Duke 2005:”I was absolutely delighted to see Steven again. We were his host family for his four years at Strath Haven. I still feel so very, very close to him. And although he still looks like a kid, he’s now a mature, incredibly articulate adult. I was really involved with ABC for 10 years, first as a host mother and then on the Board, where my job was organizing transportation for both houses. I really enjoyed taking the kids places, because it was my opportunity to get to know them. I just couldn’t give enough hugs to the returning alums who had meant so much to me during those years and from the hugs I got in return, I know that the feelings were mutual This was a wonderful celebration of the hard work and successes of countless volunteers, and an even greater celebration of alums — a great evening!”

Last Saturday at Community Arts Center, A Better Chance-Strath Haven welcomed back students, board members, 215 volunteers and supporters from its first 40 years of nurturing promising scholars from other parts of the nation as they pursue their education in Swarthmore and Strath Haven High Schools.

Remarks from Darren Bartlette, ABC-SHHS 2008, Stanford 2012, Harvard Law 2016 seemed to capture what many scholars felt:

I want to thank all of the people who have supported the A Better Chance program over the last 40 years. This program was a blessing, and was the beginning of countless opportunities for me.

You see, before coming to Strath Haven High School I lived in a very depressed area of Harlem. The schools lacked resources, classes were overpopulated, and crime was high. My parents died when I was in the 5th grade. By the 8th grade, I found myself without a stable place to live.

A teacher of mine told me about the ABC program and I immediately knew it was my golden ticket. It was my ticket to a life that I had vicariously experienced through watching television. I wrote the required essays, forged the parental consent forms, and was later accepted to the program.

Coming here brought structure to my life. I no longer had to worry about how I would get my next meal or how I would obtain schools supplies. Instead I could focus my attention on my studies, and just be a teenager.

I want to thank people like Andy and Lysa Reiger, who spent countless hours going over homework, drafting practice exams, and engaging in my insatiable appetite for debate. I also want to thank my host family, Rick and Deborah Eiel. They have been very supportive of me, from coming to move me into college and then law school to helping me think through whether it makes sense to buy a dog. It is important to have supportive people on your team; this is the foundation that ABC gave me.

To the current students: Life is a competition; it does not have to be a bitter competition, but it is a competition. Build your team. Build your dream. Every time you enter the classroom, you should view it as another opportunity to hone in on your skills and prepare for the coming opportunities. It is not easy, but it is worth it.

Lastly, I look forward to the future of this program. But I genuinely hope that one day there is not a need for ABC and that students across the country have access to adequate educational resources and opportunities.

Until that day, let’s continue looking for the disadvantaged kid who is hungry. Who is hungry for a better life, who is looking for a better chance, a better opportunity to show the world that he, too, can flourish. Let’s find him and give him this chance. Thank you.

Tyrell Charles (left), ABC-SH 2012 and George Washington U. 2016 graduate, spoke about all the work that goes into the program and thanked everyone who helped him and ABC over the years. Darren Bartlette, who graduated from Haven in 2008, Stanford in 2012 and Harvard Law school in 2016, offered his thoughts elsewhere on this page. Photos courtesy of Lysa Rieger

Tyrell Charles (left), ABC-SH 2012 and George Washington U. 2016 graduate, spoke about all the work that goes into the program and thanked everyone who helped him and ABC over the years. Darren Bartlette, who graduated from Haven in 2008, Stanford in 2012 and Harvard Law school in 2016, offered his thoughts elsewhere on this page. Photos courtesy of Lysa Rieger

Current ABC-SH student Abby Pompese and Lysa Rieger, who with husband Andy Rieger are ABC House Resident Directors. Andy said “We’re so proud of all that the alumni have accomplished, and grateful to have shared a small part of their lives. It was striking how strong the bonds are between the scholars, and how similar their experiences were as they navigated the Swarthmore/Wallingford community and worked their way through the ABC program. The evening was filled with love and laughter as the scholars and community members rekindled bonds that were up to 40 years old, and the emotional impact was quite profound.”

Current ABC-SH student Abby Pompese and Lysa Rieger, who with husband Andy Rieger are ABC House Resident Directors. Andy said “We’re so proud of all that the alumni have accomplished, and grateful to have shared a small part of their lives. It was striking how strong the bonds are between the scholars, and how similar their experiences were as they navigated the Swarthmore/Wallingford community and worked their way through the ABC program. The evening was filled with love and laughter as the scholars and community members rekindled bonds that were up to 40 years old, and the emotional impact was quite profound.”

ABC board vice president Carol Hill spoke at the celebration: “I thanked the community for continuing to invest in the ABC house, and for wrapping their arms around the scholars. It was magical to meet the people who helped us begin 40 years ago, and the alumni who validated our effort. Imagine what society would have lost if these brilliant minds hadn’t been given a better chance.”

ABC board vice president Carol Hill spoke at the celebration: “I thanked the community for continuing to invest in the ABC house, and for wrapping their arms around the scholars. It was magical to meet the people who helped us begin 40 years ago, and the alumni who validated our effort. Imagine what society would have lost if these brilliant minds hadn’t been given a better chance.”

 

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