Wilton High School is one of 300 schools around the country that hosts the A Better Chance (ABC) program, a national organization which gives young people of color, usually from inner city areas, to access college preparatory programs and educational opportunities they might not otherwise have.

This year Wilton is hosting 14 ABC scholars who, in order to get the most out of a great educational experience, make great sacrifices: living far away from home and family, they must acclimate to a new surrounding and meet the rigorous standards of the ABC program—not just academically but through public service and extracurricular involvement.

The students themselves are helped by many volunteers, including town residents who become surrogate families to the teens and others who take part in making the experience in school and out of school something worthwhile for the students. One such volunteer is Peter Kirchof, a successful businessman who has lived in Wilton for years and whose own children have also been students in Wilton’s schools. He began working with the ABC scholars by organizing seminars and sessions meant to help expose the scholars to what he has called a “bigger picture.” This program, dubbed the Life Skills Took Kit, is a series of workshops with local residents who can teach the scholars good, practical life information in a variety of areas–everything from personal finance and navigating social media to swimming and self defense.

Kirchof is handing off the program to fellow Wilton volunteer Michael LeBeau, but he wrote this thank you article to the individuals who participated in last year’s Life Skills program, just as the scholars kick off the 2016-17 curriculum.

At A Better Chance of Wilton (ABC), the mission is to teach our Wilton Scholars to succeed in today’s complex world by acquiring a better education and the work ethic to support it. A few years ago, we set out a plan to augment the amazing education the scholars get at Wilton High School by teaching common sense topics and capabilities we teach our children at home. We incorporated the Life Skills Program into the scholar curriculum so when students graduate they are better prepared for the college experience and life’s adult challenges.

Each Life Skills topic is organized into an interactive workshop setting and delivered by subject matter experts. Topics may be considered “dry” but thanks to the creativity of our volunteers, the energy and effort in which the topics were delivered made all the difference in engaging the ABC students.

As we embark on the 2016-2017 ABC program, we would like to pause, and formally recognize each workshop’s leader from last year’s Life Skills program and provide a huge “Thank You” for the thoughtfulness and energy each brought to the sessions.

We are grateful for some very special members of our Wilton community and a few from New York for sharing their special talents with our scholars. The influence of these leaders on the development of our scholars outside the classroom is simply tremendous.

One footnote:  For the second straight year, we have held a year-long cooking contest between the Boy Scholars and the Girl Scholars. After each Life Skill Session, either the girls or boys prepare, cook, serve and provide hospitality for the other house scholars. This is another critical Life Skill our program teaches each ABC Scholar. Each event is scored based on the quality, manners, and hospitality of each house and totaled for the year. The SchoolHouse Champion for the school year 2015-2016–The Girl Scholars. The award is presented to the scholars each year by the Schoolhouse at Cannondale chef Tim Labant.

Michael Gordon, Middlebrook Teacher:  Leadership Retreat – “Be Accountable”
Sarah LaFluer, MML LaFluer NY:  Entrepreneurial CEO/Leader
Master Olmedo, Special Forces and Self Defense:  Self Defense/Leadership
Ellen Byrne, Elle Partners:  Myers Briggs Analysis/Make it A Win-Win
Bob Russell, Wilton Town Historian:  History of Wilton
Anne Mitrione, Bankwell Wilton:  Personal Financial Management
Sue Johnson and Florene Kissy, Genre:  Keys to Leadership
Michael Perri, Forevermore US:  True or False:  Media Today
Mike LeBeau, Scrum50:  Social Media – Be Careful
Sarah Hagan, The Wilton Y:  Swimming Lessons
David Clune, NY Federal Reserve:  The Role of the Fed

Other contributors to our unique Life Skills Program include:  CT CoffeeJim  Shilleh; JoyRide Wilton; Bowlmor NY–Brett Parker; The Wilton Deli–Matt; Wilton Pizza–Alfredo and Matt Criscuolo; Marley’s–Mike LeBeau; Bolton Landscaping–Jeff Lapnow;  Bow Tie Theatres–Robin Fields;  The Wilton Historical Society; The Wilton Library; and the Wilton Congregational Church.