ABC House Celebrates 40 Years of Fulfilled Potential

Resident Directors Andy and Lysa Rieger, who live with their daughters Alice and Caile in the ABC House on Harvard Avenue, are pictured with ABC Strath Haven students and resident tutors from the 2015-2016 school year.

Resident Directors Andy and Lysa Rieger, who live with their daughters Alice and Caile in the ABC House on Harvard Avenue, are pictured with ABC Strath Haven students and resident tutors from the 2015-2016 school year.

This Saturday, September 17, ABC Strath Haven marks its 40th anniversary with a party at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford.

“It’s a celebration with a focus on reconnecting alumni, volunteers, donors, and founders of ABC in our community,” said Chris Darrell, an ABC Strath Haven board member who has been involved with ABC for nearly all of his 30-plus years in Swarthmore.

ABC — A Better Chance — is a national organization with local affiliates. Its house at 731 Harvard Avenue, owned by Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, is home to seven scholars who attend Strath Haven High School. The scholars in residence for the 2016-17 school year are: Nacala and Abby, seniors from New York City; Xavier and Kahlil, juniors from Atlanta; Nia, a sophomore from Los Angeles; Ruth, a sophomore from Bridgeport, Conn.; and Corey, a freshman from Chicago.

Typically, scholars arrive for 9th grade and spend all four high school years at Strath Haven. The students ABC Strath Haven selects through its application and evaluation process are usually from city schools where systems would not allow them to reach their fullest potential. Darrell says while many students ABC selects are among the highest achievers in their home school systems, counselors are asked also to recommend lower performers in whom they see exceptional promise.

The original ABC house in Swarthmore was boys-only. A girls’ house came into the picture several decades ago. At one point, Darrell says, there were as many as 16 ABC scholars in the two houses. “That was a challenge in terms of volunteer needs, and upkeep of two old houses. Consolidation was first proposed at least 10 years ago. Finally, the two were merged in 2014, following a capital campaign and extensive renovations to the ABC house on Harvard Avenue to enhance privacy, while still allowing boys and girls to be part of the same household.

The time was finally right for the merger. “It’s worked phenomenally well, Chris Darrell says. “We hoped living together in a coed house would create a family dynamic, and it has done so.”

Darrell says ABC Strath Haven has room for more volunteers, including host parents — who commit to regular visits with students for a year — drivers for event transportation, academic advisers, and board members, Those interested in volunteering or donating to support ABC can get more information at abcstrathhaven.org.

Event tickets may still be available — call Chris Darrell at (610) 764-4447.

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