For the past five years, Eric Chesterton has served as the resident director of the all-male boarding program, A Better Chance, in Lower Merion, providing parental-like support to six students.
1. El Limon in Ardmore. “They load the burritos with cilantro, and if you dine in, the margaritas are free.”
2. Prophet of the Sandlots by Mark Winegardner. “It’s a story about an old baseball scout. You see how his job is rewarding, but you also see how draining it is. It really resonated with my own job.”
3. Running. “I ran in college; I like the relationships I formed within that sport. The Haverford College Nature Trail is great for out-of-shape running.”
4. Dave Hause. “He’s a local guy who released an album, Bury Me in Philly, that felt pretty relevant to my experience.”
5. The Americans on FX. “It’s nice to see others in a nontraditional family structure also struggle with the occasional difficulties of raising adolescents.”
MLT: What made you want to get involved with a nonprofit like ABC?
EC: I tutored my first year out of Haverford College. ABC seemed like a great place to get experience with teenagers because I wanted to teach high school. You certainly aren’t working at a nonprofit for the paycheck. It’s more about the passion and mission of the program.
MLT: What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
EC: It varies. When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a house parent. When you’re a parent, the schedule is sort of made for you by what happens, rather than you making it yourself. I wake up and make sure the kids make it to school. I’m free during the day unless someone gets sick or forgets something. Then I am here all evening during their extracurriculars. I cheer them on at practice or talk to them about their day. We have a cook that comes in and we sit down together for a family style dinner. We go around the table and do a highs and lows: the best thing about our day and the worst.
MLT: What’s your favorite part about parenting youth from all different backgrounds?
EC: By living with the students, I get to develop a deeper relationship with them than I would if I was just teaching or tutoring them. You’re there for everything: when they get an A on a test, their track meets and plays. In the spring, the juniors seem to take a big step forward in maturity. They can be immature high schoolers and then all of a sudden, something clicks. That’s cool to see.
MLT: What is an invaluable lesson you press upon your students?
EC: The students here are under a lot of academic. In class, sports and life, you try the best you can and that’s all you can control. I work closely with the students to understand what they need—outside sources or tutors—because we’re not going to let them flounder. Try to do your best—it’s all you can do.