The Untold Riches of being an ABC Host Family
by Meg Fuentes, Host Mother to Jamal, WHS 2001 and Chris, WHS 2008
When Win Kellogg, one of the founding members of A Better Chance of Wilton, approached my husband and me about becoming a “host family” for an ABC scholar, we had no idea of the wonderful journey ahead for our family.
We had young sons, ages 7, 9 and 11, but fortunately, we did not let our busy life dissuade us because this commitment is one of the most significant and positive decisions we have ever made as a family.
From the get go, Jamal, our first host son, so enriched our lives. Our boys eagerly awaited Jamal’s Sunday visits and were beyond excited to have him for the entire weekend, often times fighting for his attention. Needless to say, it was a lot of testosterone in the house! There were adjustments, as we had to learn what made Jamal comfortable, and he had to learn how to live in our household. He wasn’t always happy with our food choices, but we learned to have a bottle of hot sauce on hand which he happily put on most foods, including waffles! He learned to let our dog snuggle at his feet and how to endure his friendly licking. And as Jamal grew with us, we grew with him. There were times when he had to be reprimanded, just as we would one of our own sons, and we knew then, he was truly integrated into our family!
We watched Jamal mature from a slightly awkward sophomore into an upper classman at the high school who carried himself with grace and maturity. He became an accomplished competitive runner, and we cheered him on. You have never seen a prouder family as we watched Jamal graduate from the high school on a beautiful June day, months away from starting a college career at Amherst.
Exactly three years later with two of our sons now in high school and the youngest in middle school, Win once again asked if we would take on another scholar, Chris. As before, we had to discuss this as our lives were busy in a different way, and the new scholar would actually be younger than two of the boys. This would be an entirely different experience.
“Yes” was our decision, and Chris entered our lives. He was a shy, extremely quiet, polite young man from the Southside of Chicago. He never really had been out of the city, so the greenness and all the trees were overwhelming for him. But week-by-week his shyness evaporated, as he became a member of our family. The older boys loved having him at the high school, and they were all in the band together where they bonded. Chris had overcome great obstacles to make it from the Southside of Chicago to Wilton ABC, and he had so much to teach us, just as Jamal had done. Our youngest son wrote in his college essay, “Chris is my best friend as well as my brother. We have guided each other through the struggles of high school, talked about our problems and shared a countless amount of laughs.” Chris excelled in sports, music and academics and followed his “older brother” Jamal to Amherst where he graduated in 2012.
The experience of being an ABC host family has given us gifts we never could have imagined. Our family is fuller and more enriched in everyway. In our oldest son’s college essay, he summed up our entire family’s feelings stating, “I have loved watching Chris become part of our family. As I’ve seen Chris grow as a person, it has made me realize how important it is to work hard and be true to yourself. He has taught me how much a person can accomplish, even against significant odds, when they are dedicated and committed to what they believe in.”
Jamal and Chris are still very much a part of our family. The photo is from a family vacation this past June.
* For more on the Fuentes family and ABC, scroll down to the story below on ABC's 15th Anniversary Gala *
It could not have been a more beautiful late spring day to be visiting six of Wilton's most unique homes! Nearly 600 people turned out to support ABC Wilton and see the homes that were located from as far north as Silver Spring to as far south as West Meadow. Each home reflected the personality of the homeowners, their careful attention to design and detail. Eighty volunteers managed the flow of visitors through each home and answered questions about the home and about ABC and our scholars. Thank you to everyone who joined us for this event to benefit the ABC program. We look forward to seeing you at events in the future.
ABC Golf Classic - May 21, 2013
Thank you to the many who joined us for a round of golf on a beautiful spring day to benefit ABC Wilton.
1943 - 2013
ABC has lost a friend. Win Kellogg was a profoundly generous, tireless advocate of ABC and a founding member of the Wilton ABC Board. She and her husband, Spen, were Host Parents to Ray Chambers, our first ABC Scholar to graduate from Wilton High in 1999 who went on to graduate from Brown University and Harvard Business School. Win’s friends and family celebrated her life at a Memorial Service held on March 23, 2013 at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. ABC of Wilton remembers Win Kellogg with gratitude and love for all that she contributed to the program.
5th Annual I Dream A World Concert - February 10, 2013
What an awesome Concert! Thank you to all who
performed and everyone who joined us today for the 5th "I Dream A World"
Concert. Conducted by award-winning choral director and composer Rollo Dilworth and featuring performances by the inspirational ensemble Songs of Solomon, the ABC Scholars, and Wilton's Middlebrook School Choir. Enjoy these pictures.
Sailing on Escapade - September 3, 2012
For a special field trip, Moses Alexander took all the scholars and their Resident Directors boating
on Long Island Sound in his beautiful sailboat, Escapade...
Getting to Know You - August 26, 2012
As the scholars were with us for the first Sunday before school began, Cinzia had
the great idea of going to the beach. We packed everyone (and the grill) into
the cars and headed to Sherwood Island Park. The scholars had fun in the sun and got to know each other and their Resident Directors a bit better.
ABC Welcome Picnic - August 25, 2012
This year's gathering to welcome our ABC scholars to Wilton for another new school year got off without a hitch. Unlike last year's picnic which was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene, the weather was beautiful. New and current scholars, their families, host families, and a bevy of other ABC volunteers got together to say hello at the Trackside Teen Center.
15th Anniversary - Keeping the Dream Alive Gala, June 9, 2012
ABC of Wilton celebrated fifteen wonderful years of preparing minority youth for a higher education and creating a more diverse Wilton with a Gala event at Dolce Norwalk. We welcomed 'home' thirteen of Wilton High School's 24 ABC graduates including Ray Chambers (WHS 1999, Brown University, Harvard School of Business), our very first graduate. Chris Payne (WHS 2008, Amherst College) gave a heartfelt Keynote Address that moved some of the 200 guests to tears. Chris's ABC host father from his Wilton days, Chris Fuentes, proudly introduced him with a touching description of his ABC son and the close relationship they share. Friends of ABC - new and old -danced to live music and bid generously on live and silent auction items that benefited the ABC of Wilton program. The event coincided with celebrating the graduation of our first class of female ABC Scholars from WHS. Thank you for your support, Wilton and all our many generous friends near and far! Here's to the next 15 years of ABC graduates...
XL Global Day of Giving at ABC - May 4, 2012
A team of 16 professionals from the insurance company XL Group, including the Chief Executive of their Insurance segment, Greg Hendrick, joined 9 ABC volunteers at the two ABC Houses lugging chain saws, shovels and hedge clippers on a day that began with thunderstorms. The clouds gave way to sun as the group worked at a blistering pace to roof the new chicken coop, clear the chicken coop area and then set the coop in place, clear tangles of vine and brush from the property and driveway, and also weed, prune and mulch planting beds at both properties. It was rewarding for everyone to see what could be accomplished in a solid day's work when we're pulling together for a common cause.
The 3rd annual I Dream A World concert was the best yet! Composer Rollo Dillworth conducted the Middlebrook School and the Brooklyn School of Performing Arts choirs. For the first time, the ABC scholars both presented the concert and performed for the Wilton community. They put on quite a show:
JP opened the concert with a song
Onessa and Damaris choreographed and danced the salsa
Rey, Hui and Barry accompanied the choirs on trumpet and cello
JR, Sophie, Zourry, Selena, and Amanda spoke and introduced performers
ABC's very own Board member Adrienne Reedy showed off our scholars and sang rousingly to the crowd.
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