Meet Our Scholars

/ABC Scholars 2016-17
Meet our 2016-2017 ABC Scholars
Déanna, A'mari, Jenni, Leannette, Nilda, Olamide, Mafoudia, Elise, Skye


A'mari Bing-Way, Waldorf, Maryland

A'mari is very creative and interested in art. She loves every form of art from food creation to architecture. Exposed to a veritable art gallery in the ABC house, housemate Ariel Leachman’s artistic talent and a wide choice of art programs at Andover High, A’mari should have plenty of opportunity to expand her artistic horizons. In addition, she ran for her middle school Track Team where her girls 4x100 team won first place. One of A’mari’s initial comments about Andover "kids are very laid even wear sweats to school!"

Nilda Vega, New Haven, Connecticut

Nilda lives with her mom and four siblings. Nilda founded her middle school’s Student Council, where she pushed past her fear of public speaking and loved seeing her fellow classmates happy with what she did. Nilda jumped into the Andover High experience and is excited to join the Treble Chorus of New England and is volunteering in the community. Nilda tells us "the ABC house is amazing!"

Déanna Clarke-Campbell, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“I was not being challenged at all,” explains Déanna, about why she chose to leave a creative and performing arts high school in downtown Philadelphia, which she remembers with great fondness. “I loved the school and the atmosphere. The downside was the academics.”

Déanna found out about A Better Chance from a friend and explains that she wanted to improve her chances for college. She was willing to leave a close-knit family in order to attend AHS.

As a junior at AHS, she has sought out the creative avenues she loves, joining the Show Choir and landing a role in the fall AHS show. She loves to act and sing, and she plays the piano and violin.

As for academics, she gravitates to math, science and history. “I always wonder when people say, why study history?” I think: “Why are we here, doing what we do? To answer that you have to understand what came before.”

Déanna has big dreams for the future, rattling off a list of professions, from cardio-thoracic surgeon, astrophysicist or Broadway actor or some combination of those (she points to an actor on the show, The Big Bang Theory who is, in fact, a neuroscientist).


Jenni Nguyen, Orlando, Florida

The first question on many people’s minds, when they meet Jenni, is why did she come to Andover from Orlando and how is she going to survive the cold? Jenni is quick to explain that she lived most of her life in Michigan before moving to Florida a few years ago with her mom, brother and sister. There her mom owns a nail salon, as well as two salons back in Michigan. As for finding ABC, Jenni explains that a good friend of her mother’s had been an ABC scholar and recommended it for her own high-achieving daughter.

Jenni explained that her local high school did not offer a challenging academic experience, and had few extracurricular opportunities. At AHS she has jumped in, signing up to participate in the Debate, Newspaper, Gay Straight Alliance, and the Psychology clubs. “I wanted to do something after school every day but my advisor told me to start slowly,” said Jenni.

Coming to Andover has been an easy adjustment, she says, and one of the biggest surprises has been how “nice and accommodating” ABC and its scholars have been.

Elise Cabrera, Harlem, New York

Elise’s three older sisters have set a bar of high academic achievement for her. The oldest attended Mt. Holyoke College and currently works at the national ABC organization. The other two are currently attending competitive colleges.

In her small arts and music-focused school in Harlem, Elise was in the student government but she explains that the academics were putting her behind, particularly in math. “I wanted to have a new experience and wanted something different and to be exposed to different ways of teaching,” she explains. Elise likes English and science and is enjoying world civilization. She has joined the Show Choir, Gay Straight Alliance, and Robotics clubs. She played club basketball at her old school and hopes to play at AHS.

Elise has pondered future professions, which have included artist, musician (she plays piano and guitar) and Broadway actor. She also revealed that she has thought about being the president of the United States. “It’s a lot of work to make things right. Everyone has a view of what makes a good president. I’d like to see if I could do a good job in the opinion of all sides.”


Skye Padovani, Bronx, NY

Skye Padovani smiles broadly and her laughter comes easily as she recounts her anxiety about the first day of school where it seemed everyone else already knew one another from middle school. “But then I said to myself, I’ve done this before, I just need to wait and (connections) will happen, it will come to me,” Skye recounted. And it certainly seems that her patience has been fruitful.

Two weeks in, Skye has made friends in and out of the house. All of the girls in the house have bonded quickly over music, she noted. Skye and ABC scholar Elise Cabrera are planning a guitar and song duet for the upcoming Broadway Cabaret Night at the Collins Center.

Typical of a 14-year old, she has many future goals, from rock star to tattoo artist (make that small tattoo business-owner, says this self proclaimed feminist), to following in her mother’s footsteps working with young children with disabilities to becoming an author. She has already begun realizing several of those goals. Skye is looking forward to beginning her volunteer work with Ironstone Farm and the AHS after school club supporting students with special needs. Her authorship has already begun as well. She publishes original poetry and fan fiction on, a literary website and online community of readers and writers, where one of her fan fiction stories has 17,700 reads.

Olamide Olayinka, Bronx NY

Olamide has lived many places--Nigeria, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, and now in Andover, Mass, where the initial adjustment was bigger than expected for this outgoing freshman with an easy laugh.

“I”m usually very social, its not hard for me to find friends,” said Olamide. “But on the first day no one came up to me to talk to me, and I was like, ‘What am I going to do?” What she did was head to Show Choir class where she met another student from Nigeria, and from there it has been smooth sailing. Olamide’s fall schedule is filling up fast; she has been selected for the Show Choir, and has also landed a part in AHS fall musical, In the Heights.

Olamide says she is a math person, and although her mother would like her to go into medicine, she is thinking she might like to become a psychologist or social worker.

For now she’ll settle for tackling honors Algebra, In the Heights, and life in the ABC house where she is really enjoying the sisterhood of the house.


Leannette Garcia, Bronx, NY

Leannette Garcia “wanted to get out of the city and get a better education, a better life,” she says. So when the teachers and guidance counselor at her Bronx, New York public school, the New School for Leadership and the Arts, introduced her to ABC, the 14-year-old jumped.

“I knew that it would be a better environment for me, more enriched, and that it was a safe place,” she says, admitting that it has been difficult to miss her mother back home (Garcia’s two half-siblings live in the Dominican Republic). “But I love that there are a lot of cultures involved [in the ABC House and Andover community] and I like the quietness of the town. It helps me focus more.”

At Andover High, the teen — who works babysitting at the GracePoint Community Church — happily focuses on her favorite class, English, and looks forward to dancing. “I’m going to join the dance club in October,” she says. “I used to do that at my old school and I miss it. I’m also trying to do the Community Service Club.”

As for her AHS teachers, Garcia gives them an A+. “I really like the teachers,” she says. “They’re really chill and get to work. I like the way that they teach. And the guidance counselors are cool too. They really listen to you and help you figure out what you want.”

Garcia’s goals are in flux, she explains. “I used to say that I wanted to be a pediatrician when I grew up, but from this experience at ABC, I want to make sure that I really want to be that. I’m open and want to get into a variety of things, pursue what I like, and see what happens. That’s what I’m really trying to accomplish here.”

Mafoudia Keita, Harlem, NY

Mafoudia “Dia” Keita sought out ABC because she wanted to be in a program that would challenge her to “get outside of her comfort zone.” And in the three weeks that the Bronx-bred 14-year-old has been in Andover, she’s already done just that, making new friends and starting a new chapter as a 9th-grade student at Andover High.

“I was born in Guinea, West Africa and came to the Bronx when I was five,” she says, adding that about three years ago her family of six moved to Harlem, where Dia attended a Democracy Prep charter school. “The academics were okay, but I really wanted to just be around people who had the same motivation as I did.”

After an aunt told Dia about ABC, she explored the option and fell in love with Andover’s chapter. “It was my first choice because it was so organized and so welcoming, the community too.” Of course, her move has been an adjustment. “It’s very, very different,” Dia acknowledges of life in town compared to bustling New York City. “Stores here, they close at 8 p.m. And if you need something, you either have to order online or look for it really hard. That’s just not the case at home.”

But her ABC housemates have helped ease her transition. “The girls here are the sweetest people ever,” Dia raves. “I already feel like I’ve known them for a long time, they’re so lovely and don’t let you feel left out.”

The fellow ABC scholars are also a source of inspiration for the student, whose favorite high school class so far is World History. “The girls here have had many internships and opportunities to travel for what they’re interested in,” she explains. “And I hope to be a part of that and get experience in what I want to do in the future, which is either being a pediatrician or a social worker. I just want to help children.” ABC Andover “will change many things for me,” Dia declares. Already, she notes, “It’s changed my ability to go for things!”