The Velez Family: Legacy of Leadership
|A Better Chance Alumni Luis (Collegiate School, 1977), Nancy (Spence School, 1981), and Roberto Velez (Collegiate School, 1980).
Luis, Roberto, and Nancy Velez were raised on a welfare budget in the housing projects of the South Bronx. Although their mother, Nelida, sheltered her children from the violence, gangs, and drugs looming outside of their home, there were traumatic incidents from which they could not be protected. One day, the young siblings’ mostly absent father was fatally shot.
Nelida envisioned a completely different future for her children. “She’d stay up whenever any of us had a late night of homework,” Nancy says. Nelida’s vision for her children was also shared by their public school instructors — who introduced the siblings to A Better Chance, drove them to interviews, and donated their school clothes. After being accepted to A Better Chance, Luis and Roberto attended Collegiate School, and Nancy, The Spence School, both in New York City.
Luis described adjusting at Collegiate: “I had to take remedial classes to catch up to the level of other students in school, so it was initially extremely challenging for me. They had AP classes and other courses there that weren’t offered at our old public school.” Nancy recalls being the only Latina at her school. “Spence wasn’t exposed to Puerto Ricans,” she said, “so not only was I benefiting, so were the teachers and students.”
“A Better Chance opened the door to a new world of opportunities,” says Roberto. After graduating from high school, all three siblings went on to prestigious universities and distinguished careers. Luis graduated from Princeton University and is now the Executive Director at The Manely Firm. Roberto attended Columbia University and the NYU School of Law. In 2002, he was appointed to serve as a Chief Judge by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and is now the Vice President and General Counsel at Acacia Network. Nancy attended Wesleyan University and worked as a public school teacher for several years. She now works as the Senior Director of Major Gifts at Teachers College at Columbia University.
A Better Chance wishes the Velez family continued success!