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Amanda Lewis, president of WABC, and Sam Cruz, WABC scholar, at the Class of 2021 graduation ceremonies. Cruz is now attending Clark University. COURTESY PHOTO/AMANDA LEWIS

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In a 100-year-old grey colonial house on Dix Street lives a group of Winchester High School boys from other parts of the country.  Parents who’ve raised teenagers may blanch at the thought of seven strapping young men in one household, but this is a special place.

The ABC House, as it’s called, is part of a nationwide program, “A Better Chance,” one of 21 similar school programs, which seeks to “increase the number of well-educated young people of color who are capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society,” according to its website.

ABC House on Dix Street serves a group of Winchester High School boys from other parts of the country. COURTESY PHOTO/AMANDA LEWIS

And the helpers are legion, none more dedicated to its success than Board of Directors President Amanda Lewis, although the list of helpers is huge and includes over 50 residents, including Select Board Member Anthea Brady and various tutors and host families.

When your reporter spoke with Lewis, she was eager to mention their yearly fundraiser, “The Dream,” which was held at the Sanborn House on April 27. 

“It really is about dreams,” she said, “about young men and their families who dream about a college education.” 

High School senior Devon Headley, from Brooklyn, N.Y., has this to say about the program: “ABC has profoundly impacted my life in many positive ways. ABC has provided numerous resources for me, such as mentorships and educational support that aided my academic success. It also opened me to new perspectives through experiences, such as building a school in Honduras for kids in poverty.

“It helped me develop a great appreciation for community service, locally and globally,” he added. “I am very thankful to be a WABC scholar as it has become a part of my identity, which I will never forget.”

WABC Scholar Joel Aryee, now a sophomore, but arriving as a freshman in this photo with his proud family. COURTESY PHOTO/AMANDA LEWIS

That sentiment is echoed by senior Waldo Vasquez from Connecticut.

“Winchester ABC has changed who I am as a person,” he said. “I’ve been welcomed, accepted, and supported by so many people in the community. I’ve become independent and have learned how and when to ask for help. I’m sad that my time here is coming to an end, but I’m excited about what awaits me. I’m forever grateful.”

The program’s chief goal is to provide the sort of high school education most likely to get kids into college, and Winchester High is not only one of the top-rated schools in the Commonwealth, but it also offers a variety of sports and clubs. 

Families in Winchester host ABC scholars as a four-year commitment. Each scholar is paired with a family and spends time at the family’s home on Sundays and one weekend a month. In this photo, ABC Alum Ibny Crookson goes to the theater to see ‘Hamilton’ with his host family, the Ihrigs. COURTESY PHOTO/AMANDA LEWIS

Lewis has been involved at ABC for eight years and she’s done a lot of volunteer work in the schools, is a former Swim Winchester president, and organized a multi-cultural fair at Muraco Elementary School. While with ABC, she helped find boys enrichment programs that aligned with their interests and she was director of student life, which was more about the social and emotional aspect of their stay.

Wilson Street resident Lewis has a day job, too, as managing editor of Pangyrus, an online literary magazine, plus she’s a literary agent. 

“I’m not officially retired — yet,” she said.

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