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ABC Foundation program creates equal education opportunities

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ABC Foundation program creates equal education opportunities

Over six years ago, Jessica Brooks was sitting in her middle school classroom, convinced that she was in trouble. She just heard an announcement over the public address system calling for twenty students, including Jessica, to report to the office. Later she learned that it wasn't trouble but favor that led her to the office that day. She was selected to apply for the Eden Prairie contingent of A Better Chance Foundation. Over time, twenty students quickly diminished to five, and after testing and various application procedures, Jessica was the only student from Canton, Ohio selected for the program. This experience would be life changing. Pictured (left to right): Tonya Fitzgerald, Assistant Resident Director; Gardner Gay, Executive Director of Eden
Prairie ABC Foundation and Jessica Brooks, ABC Alumni - Class of 2005.


Over six years ago, Jessica Brooks was sitting in her middle school classroom, convinced that she was in trouble. She just heard an announcement over the public address system calling for twenty students, including Jessica, to report to the office. Later she learned that it wasn't trouble but favor that led her to the office that day. She was selected to apply for the Eden Prairie contingent of A Better Chance Foundation. Over time, twenty students quickly diminished to five, and after testing and various application procedures, Jessica was the only student from Canton, Ohio selected for the program. This experience would be life changing. In middle school she wanted to go to college, but never thought she would be able to. Fast forward six plus years and Jessica, an ABC Foundation alum, is a successful student at Carleton College, one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Brooks now belongs to eight different organizations on campus, and holds leadership positions in a majority of them.

The ABC Foundation recruits junior high students who rank in the top ten percentile of their class and who are from communities with lower incomes and failing schools, to attend a college preparatory school while being housed with other ABC students in the school's community. The ABC Foundation was founded in 1963 as the Independent School Talent Search Program. The program was developed by headmasters from twenty-three selective independent schools, who answered President Lyndon B. Johnson's call for a need to create equal education. Initially, the headmasters aimed to diversify their student body of elite students with students from low-income families. However, the students were equal in academic capabilities. In the first group forty-nine students were selected. The success of the first program led to the development of the College Preparatory Schools Program, which has to date placed 11,000 students in the nation's top college preparatory schools. The ABC Foundation is the only program of its kind nationally, and currently has 175 independent day and boarding schools and twenty-five public schools on its roster.

The new experience provided to ABC students is definitely an opportunity for success. However, there is an adjustment phase they endure as they transition from their homes, family relationships and old neighborhoods to suburbia.

Gardner Gay, Executive Director of Eden Prairie ABC Foundation, has witnessed several students adjust to a new way of living: "The adjustment is a tough one because there is a lot to adjust to. We have got kids sometimes coming from one-person, one-child homes living in an environment where there are seven or eight people or more. We have got some people who have only dealt with their mom all their life, or their dad, and then all of a sudden you have got four or five adults that are involved in the house. You have got 'older sisters'. Then you have got all the community that you have to be involved with, because we do expect our students to meet us halfway in a lot of the things that we do. We do a lot of volunteering and community action. We just want to be out there. So our students not only have to balance the academic part of what we are doing, but also the social aspect of what we are doing. So it's tough. There are a lot of things that a student has to adjust to, besides the fact that we have a very structured program."

Initially Brooks, along with her fellow ABC housemates, experienced culture shock. "I was not used to suburbia. This was probably the richest place I had seen in my life," Brooks said. "The way people even handled things was a lot
 

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