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  • Today Online

Simsbury ABC a catalyst for student’s Ivy League path

Updated: Dec 11, 2021

• Alum confirms Simsbury HS gave him A Better Chance

This article first appeared as part of our cover story package in the December edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication — please see the cover story for further details about Simsbury ABC

By Tavyen Matthews — Special to Today Magazine

Tavyen Matthews is a 2016 graduate of Simsbury High School via the Simsbury A Better Chance (ABC) college preparatory program — he graduated from Cornell University in 2020

WHAT CAN I honestly begin to say about a program that has entirely shaped me as a person to this day?

As a young black male from the suburbs of Atlanta, there was not much that I had going for me. My school system was unaccredited, my teachers often did not care, and the school administration often overlooked the successes of my childhood — to them, I was just another student.

When I came to Simsbury ABC as a young 13-year-old, I was not prepared for how much I would grow, mature and develop into an intellectual and competent young man.

As a Simsbury A Better Chance scholar, I began to pursue academics and athletics to a degree I would not have been able to at home. I began to branch out of my repertoire. I started fencing and playing volleyball — sports that were entirely out of my reach in Atlanta. I even went as far as to captain both Simsbury High teams while being in multiple clubs and organizations.

I became a more well-rounded and amicable human being. I was able to try many things that interested me, and I had no fear about doing something new, something I would learn that would benefit both my college experience and my career.

Looking back on my experience, there is nothing I am more grateful for than the support groups and networks that I built throughout my Simsbury High School experience.

The support group that constantly had my back was phenomenal — my wonderful host family, the Wildman family, who never once doubted anything I could do, and my academic advisor who spent many hours making sure that I always kept my focus, as well as the fantastic board members who never once stopped pouring their heart into making sure that we had the best experience.

Every day I benefit from the experiences and connections I made during my tenure at the Simsbury ABC house … [they] still permeate my mind and never fail to leave a smile on my face

I cannot begin to thank everyone who guided me through my high school years in Simsbury. From multiple residential directors who constantly ensured we were safe and responsible for our actions, to the tutors who brought out the best in us by always motivating and pushing us to take the next leap in our academics.

There was never an “I can’t do this” moment. It was always “How can I do this?”

When I was multiple math classes behind my peers, the program supported me in doubling up on math classes and pushing my tenuous work ethic forward. I was constantly forced not to settle for an A when I could get an A+, to work not to be satisfied until I exhibited excellence continually.

This drive and hunger for the best ultimately led me down my Ivy League path, and I wanted to challenge myself against the greatest minds and pursue the highest level of education.

Every day I benefit from the experiences and connections I made during my tenure at the Simsbury ABC house. From the beautiful holiday memories to the numerous cultural trips and experiences, the ABC house always made sure to instill some type of pop knowledge, culture or experience that would widen our worldviews.

Small moments such as rolling sushi for the first time, seeing my first Broadway musical, or even seeing the Capitol building in D.C. for the first time still permeate my mind and never fail to leave a smile on my face. +

Tavyen Matthews came to Simsbury High School (Class of 2016) from Riverdale, Georgia — he is a 2020 Cornell University graduate with a bachelor of science in atmospheric science and meteorology


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