February 05, 2016

Abbi's Story of Success

Finding her voice through Friends of the Children.

Abbi is a 17-year-old West Indian girl originally from Guyana selected to Friends–Boston's first class of Achievers in 2004. A single mother looking for a better opportunity for herself and her children, Abbi’s mother migrated to the United States with Abbi’s siblings when Abbi was just 4-years-old.

Abbi’s mother, a determined, devout single mother who had recently emigrated from Guyana, was thrilled when her daughter was selected as a member of Friends of the Children–Boston's inaugural class of Achievers. Abbi was a nervous child, often withdrawn at school. She had difficulty mixing with her peers and typically raced home after classes to the comfort and security of her own home. She wasn’t accustomed to being around large, noisy crowds. After her trip to the bowling alley, she wasn’t sure she wanted any more of them either – or bowling or the Friends of the Children program.

Her Friend persisted, though. She understood that their first activity had been too much for Abbi. They needed to start slow, developing a connection and a sense of trust. Abbi needed to feel safe and supported. Then they could take on the outside world.

Abbi saw her mentor almost every day that first year with Friends–Boston. Her mentor seemed to show up everywhere, always with a smile and a kind word. She came to Abbi’s classes. She attended some of her after school activities. Abbi came to know her and like her. Soon, they were venturing out, doing things like painting pottery together in a paint-your-own store. Abbi still has a green M&M figure she made with her Friend, sitting prominently on her bureau today. “I think my Friend painted Blue’s Clues,” she said with a nostalgic chuckle.

Year after year, through all of elementary school and high school, Abbi enjoyed the company of her Friend. The individual Friends changed – and their personalities, too – but each one was primed to connect with Abbi, understand her naturally shy ways and be there for her; however, they could. Abbi stayed involved in Friends–Boston activities as well, even though many were challenging. She remembers, in particular, an 8th-grade camping trip to Colorado. She had never been so far from home for so long. “I hated it so much,” she said. “Looking back, I’d do it again. I am always going to be a big mama’s girl, and it was scary. But it was good for me too.”

With her strong faith, determined mother and desire to achieve academically, Abbi took the Independent School Entrance Exam. Abbi is now poised to graduate from Boston Latin Academy (BLA), one of the city’s selective exam schools. With a one hundred and thirty-five year history of academic excellence with an outstanding rate of college placement, BLA is one of the premier high schools in Boston. Abbi is an academic scholar at BLA and tries her best to maintain good grades. Outside of school, Abbi loves to read books by her favorite author Marcus Zusak and travel.

Last year, Abbi was given the opportunity to travel to two countries through E.F. International Tours. Abbi successfully fundraised the total cost of her trip by reaching out to her community resources, including her Friend and Friends of the Children–Boston, who featured her in their email newsletter. Thanks to the support her Friend Keisha and the community helped her receive, Abbi was able to visit France and Spain and finally got the chance to use the language skills she learned in school to communicate with the people of both countries. She was able to see the things she has only viewed on television, books and the internet, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Palacio Real. As a vintage fashion buff, Paris was an amazing place for her to visit.

She is college-bound – the first in her family to achieve such a rank – and her list of possible destinations is impressive. With the help of her Friend Keisha, she has applied to 12 colleges and universities throughout the U.S., and we are sure she will have her pick of them. She would like to major in English and teach in English as a Second Language in South Korea.

Clearly, Abbi has all that it takes to succeed in life: she is smart, she is focused, and like her mother, she is determined. She has found her voice, and she is not afraid to use it. Abbi credits her time with Friends of the Children–Boston for where she is today. “If it weren’t for Friends–Boston, I probably wouldn’t be going to such a good school. And I can honestly say I’d probably have no friends at all because I wouldn’t be able to speak up,” she said. She talks about some of her mentors like idols, too. One was “awesome,” another “super caring.”

Abbi admits that at times it was hard to keep her commitment to Friends of the Children–Boston, even while the program and her Friends remained committed to her. Twelve years is a long time to do anything. And some personalities don’t click. Some activities are not at all appealing.

Yet, Abbi is also the first to say to other, younger Achievers: Stick with it. It is worth it. Her voice when she says it? It is loud and clear.

Keisha, Abbi’s Friend, had this to say about Abbi:

I find this Achiever to be a remarkable young lady. She is very pleasant to work with, always willing to meet, and always willing to lend a helping hand. She is a true blessing to the Adolescent Cohort and a real breath of fresh air. Abbi has shown me that her faith, hard work and goals will allow her to reach for the stars and touch the sky. Abbi has all that it takes to succeed in life: she is smart, she is focused, and like her mother, she is determined. She has found her voice, and she is not afraid to use it.