A Better Chance Scholar Award Winners

Our outstanding Scholars are the real stars of our luncheon!  Nearly 70 seniors competed for our Scholar Awards – the “best of our best” – with 9 winning the top honors.  Come and hear their stories at the luncheon.   We know that you will leave inspired and hopeful about the  future. 

For the first time, we will have invited a panel of former honorees, donors and Alumni assist us in selecting the Scholar awardees. Thank you to Suzan Morno-Wade of Xerox, Adalisse Rodriguez of Morgan Stanley, and Tidi Mahachi of Stanley Black & Decker for joining us on our inaugural Scholar Awards Selection Committee.

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“Being a part of the Scholar awards selection committee was a very fulfilling experience. I was blown away - amazed and encouraged - by the number of talented future leaders in our midst. They are intelligent, socially conscious, well rounded and confident beyond their years. I cannot wait to see and hear what they will do once they finish their studies.”
- Suzan Morno-Wade

Meet our Scholar Award Winners


The Judith Berry Griffin Award, named for Judith Berry Griffin, President of A Better Chance from 1982– 2003 is awarded to a senior who has shown exceptional and steadfast determination to achieve. The recipient demonstrates successes through perseverance toward personal objectives, in spite of obstacles that might have impeded his or her progress.


Episcopal Academy / Hometown: Upper Darby, PA

Helen Tamrat is a uniquely ambitious student and social activist with extraordinary academic capability and vast aspirations to transform the world. Acutely aware of the obstacles and discrimination she has had to overcome in her young life, Helen is committed to being a leader in her community and giving a voice to marginalized groups. At Episcopal Academy, where she attends school in Pennsylvania, her dedication to inclusion work and community enrichment is a key part of her identity. She serves on the Boards of both the Black Student Union and the Diversity Awareness Club, she Co-founded a Little-Big Sister program for younger minority students, and she regularly attends regional and national diversity conferences. Whether Helen is tutoring children, working on Episcopal’s Community Service Board, or even volunteering at A Better Chance, she consistently displays what the Princeton Club Prize, calls “the highest degree of intellectual promise, academic excellence, exemplary community service, excellent scholarship and outstanding personal character.” Helen is excited to be headed to Yale University in the fall.


The Nancy J. Lucas Memorial Award was established in loving memory of our Senior Program Coordinator who served the New York Metro Area from 1985 to 2002. Ms. Lucas’s family, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sisters, A Better Chance colleagues, and countless Alumni who benefited from her services have endowed this award. The award is given to a Scholar who demonstrates leadership in promoting equity and justice at his or her school or offers special encouragement to peers.


The College Preparatory School / Hometown Oakland, CA

Gabrielle is student at The College Preparatory School in Oakland, CA, where she has consistently worked to improve the lives of underserved members of her community. For the past 6 years, she has served as a Youth Attorney with CenterForce Youth Court, where she tirelessly advocated for youth accused of committing misdemeanors. Gabrielle was also a member of a team that rewrote the sexual harassment policy for the Oakland Unified School District, and she is the Founder of her own afterschool program -- Hands to Power -- which helps build self-esteem in children of color. An excellent public speaker, Gaby recently spoke at the 2019 Women’s March in Oakland, alongside Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Gabrielle has been recognized numerous times for her public activism. Most notably, she was selected as a semifinalist for the Yale Basset Award for Community Engagement, and she is the proud recipient of a Certificate of Accomplishment for the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. Next year, Gabrielle will bring her passion to Duke University, where she will major in Public Policy.


The A Better Chance Academic Achievement Award is presented to outstanding seniors who have demonstrated academic distinction. In addition to excelling academically, chosen seniors must exhibit exceptional leadership potential in their school or home community and participate in community service activities. Recipients of this award have transcripts that demonstrate a willingness to explore the rich environment of their current school and a diverse range of classes. Recipients have taken advantage of the most challenging courses in their school’s rigorous curriculum and have demonstrated their academic prowess.


San Francisco University High School / Hometown: Novato, CA

Sarah is a San Francisco University High School senior who exudes enthusiasm and a drive to succeed. Both a National Merit Commended Student and a National Hispanic Scholar, Sarah is also a talented actress. She participates in three to four school productions every year and was recently cast as Juliet in Ubuntu Theatre Project’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Sarah has served as President of her school’s Latinx United affinity group and Peer Advisor to twelve sophomores. She also served as a certified Special Olympics Coach and a volunteer teacher’s aide for an elementary-level English-Spanish Dual Immersion program. Next year, Sarah plans to major in Statistics and Data Science at Washington University in St. Louis, and to use those skills to tell the stories of historically marginalized groups.



The Archer School for Girls / Hometown: Los Angeles CA

Caitlin Chen is a senior at the Archer School for Girls, where she prides herself on a dedication to excellence in all forums. She was a three-sport scholar-athlete for all four of her high school years, serving as Captain of both her Basketball and Cross Country teams. Additionally, she has played piano for thirteen years, and uses her passion to give back through the Music Students’ Service League. Interested in medicine, Caitlin has volunteered at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, interned at USC Schaeffer Center on health care policies, and conducted her own biomedical research on potential treatments for Alzheimer’s. Currently, she is training to be an EMT and preparing to attend UCLA in the fall. 



St. Paul’s School / Hometown: Detroit, MI

Originally from Detroit, Ellis is currently poised to graduate from St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, where he has been engaged on many fronts. He has served as an Admissions Committee Member, Chair of the WSPS-FM radio station, Head of the Young Democrats, and Chair of the Committee on Social Inclusion. He is also an active member of Project Destined: Detroit, as well as the Detroit Kappa League, and he created the Ellis Clark Foundation, which provides community programs like free standardized test preparation for Detroit public school teens. Ellis spent his junior year in Europe, studying government in Saragossa, Spain. While there, he co-founded a Black Students Association and a Model United Nations program and wrote for the school's website as a Campus Reporter. Next, Ellis is headed to Brown University.



Poly Prep Country Day School / Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

A senior at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, NY, Kristen is a National Merit Commended Scholar and an advocate for both girls and students of color, at her school and beyond. For more than six years, she has been interested in coding and graphic design, and she served as the President of Poly Prep’s Girls Who Code Club. In addition to coding, she is also passionate about fencing. She has competed in the sport both nationally and internationally, and she successfully petitioned to create a fencing team at her school. In the fall, Kristen will be attending MIT where she is excited to major in Computer Science and explore topics like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and cyber security.



New Roads School / Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

LeRoya is a stand-up comedienne, lifeguard, swim instructor, and coach, and she is a leader in all of her communities. She has been heavily involved in her school, competitive swimming, mentoring struggling youth, teaching her own “Seeds of Peace” class, and more – all while working a 30-hour-a-week job. An achiever on every front, LeRoya’s one woman comedy show has toured Los Angeles and landed her a spot on ABC’s The View. And, she was recently awarded a coveted POSSE scholarship, which she will use to attend Dickinson College in the fall. LeRoya strives to lead by example: her goal is to be an inspiration to other students, proving that despite coming from challenging family situations you can still keep swimming, especially if you learn to laugh at your problems.


The Westminster School / Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Naima is a senior at The Westminster Schools who thrives on challenge. Among her many extracurricular activities, she was Editor in Chief of her school newspaper, Leader of her local Circle of Women chapter, President of the Fulton County Youth Commission, a saxophonist in her school Jazz Band, and even Homecoming Queen. On top of all of this, Naima is a nationally recognized cross country and track athlete. She became an All-American by finishing fifth in the mile race at the 2018 New Balance Track and Field High School Nationals. She holds state titles in the 800m and 1600m, and she holds school records in the 800m, 1600m, 3200m, and 5k cross country. Next year, Naima will attend Duke University where she will run cross country and track as a Blue Devil.


Phillips Academy / Hometown: Andover, MA

Dominic is a hardworking and resilient student with a deep commitment to to academic excellence. He is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist as well as a Scholastic Art & Writing Silver Key Recipient, and last year he was selected to represent Phillips Academy at the 2018 Avery Ashdown qualifying examinations for the United States National Chemistry Olympiad. Outside of academics, Dominic can often be found rowing Crew or engaged in community service at Lawrence General Hospital where he has volunteered more than 100 hours. He is also the Founder and Co-Head of the Ice Skating Club on his campus, where he volunteers to help make ice skating more accessible for students. After graduating Cum Laude from Phillips Academy this month, Dominic will move on to Yale University in the fall to study.