ABC Darien program seeks residential directors

ABC graduates at the 2019 graduation party.

ABC graduates at the 2019 graduation party.

ABC Darien / Contributed photo

DARIEN — A Better Chance program is seeking residential directors to live and work in the program’s residence and mentor young people.

ABC Board Co-President Susan Wilson said the job is “an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of eight really motivated, hard-working, wonderful young ladies.”

The program has seen 52 participants attend four-year college programs, most of them the first in their families.

The program is accepting applications for resident directors for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year and to continue as resident directors for the 2021-22 academic year.

Founded in 1963, A Better Chance is a national program created to give students of color from under-served communities a better opportunity to be successful in college.

More than 300 schools in the United States participate in the program. While some are boarding schools and day programs, 22 are community school programs, like Darien. The Darien program began in 1982.

In the Darien program, eight high-school age girls — two per grade level — live together over the course of the school year in a private family home.

Two resident directors live in the home with the girls. The directors provide guidance and support, organize activities, and make sure the girls are happy and on track.

The 23-member board is responsible for overseeing the education of the scholars, and meeting basic needs such as food, housing, and transportation. Also covered are expenses related to health, tutoring, counseling and applying to college, as well as extra-curricular and enrichment activities. The annual budget is raised entirely in Darien and Fairfield County.

Founder Anne Kimball said A Better Chance in Darien came about as part of “Explorations” gatherings offered every year by Person-to-Person to raise awareness of programs in the area that benefited the disenfranchised. It was also inspired by the successful program in New Canaan at the time, Kimball said on the ABC website.

A Better Chance has an income ceiling, which varies by family size. The town provides for the education of the girls. Wilson said the Board of Education has always been supportive of the program.

The annual budget of the Darien program is $170,000, which covers items such as food, trash collection, heat, water, air conditioning, and electricity, as well as tutors, computers, activities and entertainment.

The cost is covered by private donations.

All funds are raised each year through fundraising, spring raffle and periodic gala events.

Each girl’s family pays an annual fee of $500 to participate in the program. Families are responsible for costs related to sports and after-school activities.

The girls receive a biweekly allowance from A Better Chance. They are responsible for their own clothes, toiletries and personal items.

The girls need to maintain a B average to stay in the program.

Colleges that recent graduates have attended include Franklin & Marshall in Pennsylvania, Amherst and MIT in Massachusetts, and Columbia in New York.

Former students in the program have been hired in the film industry, gone to medical school, joined the ministry, and become a restaurant owner.

Job requirements for the resident director include experience working with students, working knowledge of how public schools work, a commitment to promoting diversity, prior experience in education, and more.

Benefits include housing year-round and meals during the school year in separate quarters, time off during the summer and school vacations, and the opportunity “to make a real difference in the lives of the scholars.”

For more information on A Better Chance or to apply, visit abetterchance.org.