Kelly Landry knows that education is seldom equal. But 11 years ago, an article in The Boston Magazine made it personal for her. The piece was about Lawrence High School, a Massachusetts school near the New Hampshire border with a 50 percent graduation rate. She and her family had welcomed Malaquias Canery into their home the day before for the start of a four-year period as his host family through A Better Chance of Clinton and the Mohawk Valley, a local educational opportunity program.
Lawrence was Canery’s hometown high school.
“My kids asked me why Malaquias’ mother would send him to Clinton, and I showed them the article,” said Landry, a Clinton Teachers Association member. “I explained that she wanted him to have a better opportunity.”
For the past 50 years, Landry and other Clinton educators and community members have offered a helping hand to hundreds of young men like Canery through the Clinton ABC program.
Students live communally in “ABC house” under the supervision of a live-in resident director. Each student is also matched with two community host families for the duration of their stay in Clinton; they alternate day-long Sunday visits with those families explained Clinton TA member Amie Johnson. Johnson’s family hosted New York City student ONeil Campbell several years ago when her children were small and she plans to host again when her now sixth-grade son is older. “It’s a wonderful part of the program, you really form a connection,” she said. “At first I felt compelled to entertain him, but after a month we just hung out.”
The students also become important members of the Clinton community. “The boys have a profound impact on the school,” said Johnson, noting that last year an ABC senior served as student council president.
“We work with the students, their parents and their teachers to make sure no one falls through the cracks,” said Landry explaining that through the program students receive tutoring and help with college prep and advisement.
Michael Pavone (pictured above), a first year Clinton TA member, was inspired to get involved in the program after joining the district; he plans to host a student in the future. “We’re a suburban/rural community and there’s not a lot of diversity here, so it’s important for students to meet students whose lives are different from theirs.”
Although Landry and Johnson’s host students have graduated and moved on, they’re still in touch. Campbell sent Johnson a picture of a board game she and her family played with him along with the message “thinking of you.” Another former student is working as a teacher.
“My phone blows up on Mother’s day,” said Landry. “I feel lucky to live in a community with such an incredible program. We’re providing educational opportunities for some truly great kids and our community gains so much. It’s a win-win.”
For information about A Better Chance, visit www.abetterchance.org.