ABC: Educational Success Stories
September 17, 2015
Here’s a photo from another standing-room-only book launch. I like that tall guy’s shirt, but I’ve got to start arriving early enough to grab a seat! Or I should remember to claim a chair before I linger at the wine table.
The book being celebrated, last night at Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, PA, was A House Alive with Words by Patricia Zita Krisch (the person way up front in the red dress). Subtitled Stories from the ABC Program, a path to college for inner-city youth, it focuses on eight boys from the ABC House in Lower Merion Township, a well-to-do suburb of Philadelphia. Part of a national program called “A Better Chance,” ABC House takes academically talented, economically disadvantaged boys of color and houses
them together while they attend Lower Merion High School. Along with a home, the program provides academic and personal counseling and guidance. The goal is to get the boys into college and on the path to success.
You’ve heard of programs like this. Do they really work? Trained as a sociologist, Krisch understands the social and educational problems the kids face—such as being singled out, in a class of white students, to give the “African American view” on an issue—but she goes beyond those to portray each of the boys as an individual with his own experiences, insights, struggles, and delights. One of her significant observations is that the boys’ greatest resource turns out to be their group itself, the camaraderie they develop and the support they give each other.
Nationally, ABC graduates include well-known people like Tracy Chapman and Deval Patrick. But the program is not about making governors or Grammy winners, it’s about giving ordinary smart kids a chance at a successful life. Krisch’s “stories” from the program, including the tale of one boy who was kicked out, help us comprehend the scale of changes that will be needed for everyone to have a better chance.