Profiles of Success

Brian Sanford


Brian Sanford knows a little something about hard times. He came from a poor family in Hartford’s Northend. His mother is a former drug addict and the family knows the sting of being homeless. He has had to contend with the violence of inner city life (one of his closest friends was shot and killed while walking home from his senior prom). Despite his circumstances, however, Brian and his mother wanted a better life. Brian entered Westminster School as a 5th year senior. Although he graduated from Hartford Public High and had visions of attending college to play Division I football, he felt that he wasn’t academically prepared. Brian was introduced to Westminster by Todd Eckerson who is the Director of Crossroads Cooperative Learning Program and a Westminster faculty member. The scholarship provided through by the WALKS Foundation made the dream of a college preparatory education possible. The serene campus in Simsbury was a welcomed change from Brian’s neighborhood of drugs and violence. Westminster opened up a new world of possibilities. He excelled academically and continued to perform athletically. Today, Brian is a communications major at Temple University and a defensive end on the football team. He is able to balance his academic responsibilities with sports because of the valuable lessons and discipline taught at Westminster. “The WALKS Foundation has meant everything to me,” Brian says. “Thank you for investing in me WALKS. Without you, I know I wouldn’t be attending Temple.” Brian has also been an inspiration to his family. His two younger brothers are now planning on college and his mother – inspired by his success – will soon enroll in college to pursue an interest in psychology.

Ben Bailey

Avon Old Farms School

Ben Bailey found out about Avon Old Farms School, you could say, by accident. His childhood best friend’s brother was Mark Blake who attended Avon Old Farms and was himself a WALKS Scholar. Ben was always a precocious adolescent who needed to be challenged academically. It was clear to Mark from his conversations with Ben that he would excel at Avon. Mark recommended that he apply. Ben received a scholarship through the WALKS Foundation. Without it, Avon Old Farms would have been a financial hardship on his family and he would not have been able to attend. Ben excelled in his studies at Avon and went on to study at the University of Southern California. The foundation laid at Avon prepared him well for the challenges of college and helped to fuel his success. In time, he would graduate from the Weil Medical College at Cornell University. Today, Ben is a doctor in Huntsville, Alabama where he is the co-founder of the Alabama Urgent Care for Women. “The WALKS Foundation gave me an opportunity to develop academically at a crucial time. Thank you WALKS for investing and believing in me.” Ben is convinced that there is more untapped talent in the inner city that needs to be developed so that they can be the doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Gabriella “Gabby” Blake

Loomis Chaffee School

Growing up, Gabby Blake saw poverty in the Greater Hartford area and dreamed of one day being able to do something about it. She was a gifted student and was encouraged by her aunt just weeks before the start of her freshman year to apply to Loomis Chaffee. Gabby came from a working-class family and they were not able to afford the cost of a private school education. The doors of opportunity were opened to her by the WALKS scholarship and would forever change her life. “Loomis was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I thank God for WALKS. The teachers at Loomis believed in me and pushed me to excel. My sophomore English teacher took me under her wing, spent time with me outside of the classroom and in the process instilled confidence in me. Everything about the Loomis environment was geared at preparing me for college.” Gabby is now a pre-med student at the University of Pennsylvania. She hopes one day to be able to create a free medical clinic for children. “We have to do something for the children, especially the generation to come…the generation behind. Together we can pass on hope, brotherhood and so much more.”

Hai Dang

Kingswood Oxford School

Hai Dang was born in Saigon, Vietnam. His parents were born in Canton, China and migrated to Vietnam during the Cultural Revolution. Education was always important to the family and was constantly stressed. As a child, he remembers playing in the streets with bombing and gunfire in the background. The family escaped from Vietnam when they were sponsored by the Glastonbury Congregational Church. They lived in East Hartford and he and his five sisters attended public school there. Two of the teachers from his public school accepted a job to teach at Kingswood and they encouraged Hai to apply. When he found out that he would be able to attend Kingswood Oxford with the help of the WALKS scholarship, his mother told him “you have an opportunity, now make the most of it.” And he did. Hai studied hard and performed well academically. Kingswood broadened his horizon and gave him confidence. The WALKS Foundation opened the door to Kingswood, and Kingswood prepared the way for Wheaton College. Hai graduated from Wheaton with a degree in chemistry and a minor in finance and computer science. Today, Hai is president of Dynasty Financial: a property management company he founded which is committed to providing housing for low-income families. He is living proof that you can rise above your circumstances with a little help. He is thankful that he received his help from WALKS. “You can overcome anything as long as you work hard and make the best of your opportunities.”

Rosalyn Davis

Suffield Academy

Rosalyn Davis is from a family of thirteen children. The thought of a private school education was appealing. There was no way that the family would be able to afford it so she attended Weaver High School for her freshman year. Rosalyn joined the Upward Bound program at Weaver, which in turn introduced her to Suffield Academy. The WALKS scholarship provided Rosalyn with much needed financial assistance. Suffield Academy had a major impact on her development by exposing her to different cultures and exposing her to new academic challenges. “I learned that there was no limit that can be placed on my abilities. I was better than I thought I was. The teachers and staff at Suffi eld helped me to achieve my full potential. WALKS provided a phenomenal gift when they helped fi nance my education. They gave me hope beyond the realities of my young present. They introduced me to a world that I would not have known otherwise.” At Suffield Academy (like the other WALKS schools) the question wasn’t “are you going to college?”…it was “where are you going to college?” Rosalyn graduated from Suffield and attended Wesleyan University where she majored in Economics. Rosalyn is now a project manager with Anthem Blue Shield and manages large-scale projects related to provider satisfaction. She is also serving as a mentor to her siblings and other youths in the Hartford community. “The WALKS scholarship made it possible for me to experience a new world…a world without limits. It has provided me with a an education and developed me into the woman that I am today.” The investment has paid off