Two New Students — Both 9th Graders — Have Moved Into ABC House This Fall

Welcome to Leannette Garcia and Mafoudia “Dia” Keita ! These two freshmen join six other returning scholars.

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!”

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.”