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.