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Success starts at home (part 3) -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Success starts at home (part 3)


Teddy Okonokhua completed his MBA at Georgia Tech this spring and recently started a job as a senior financial analyst at Intel in Oregon. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ben Skudlarek


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A $1,000 turning point

Teddy and Maggie each won scholarships to private high schools. But at the end of Maggie’s freshman year, Lucy received a letter saying that she owed the school $1,000 for books and fees. Unless she paid the bill, Maggie wouldn’t be eligible to attend the school in the fall.

“I didn’t have $1,000,” Lucy said. “I had used up all my credit cards. I had borrowed from everywhere I could borrow.”

As Lucy wracked her brain for a way to keep her daughter in school, her thoughts turned to Belatti: He had shown them many kindnesses over the years, but would he be willing to make this kind of investment in their family?

She didn’t even know how to contact him directly, but summoning her courage, she called his secretary and explained her problem.

Looking back, she said, “I think the stress in my voice just was uncontrollable.” Either the tone of her voice or her words themselves must have moved the secretary: She passed on the request to Belatti, who happily provided the money.

A ‘great partnership’ is born

That moment of generosity helped cement what Belatti calls “a really great partnership.”

As a way of saying thank-you, Lucy began sending him copies of the children’s report cards each semester, “to show him that his money was well spent.”

Belatti took an increased interest in their education, and in their lives.

As he got to know them better, Belatti began to think Teddy might be a good fit for his alma mater, Notre Dame. During Teddy’s junior year of high school, Belatti brought the dean of Notre Dame’s business school by the house to talk to him.

Teddy knew little about Notre Dame, but remembers thinking after the visit: “I’ve got to at least apply.”

He went for a tour and fell in love with the place.

And the next fall, when the entire family helped move Teddy into his dorm, the campus cast its spell on his sisters as well.

One by one, they applied to Notre Dame. With each acceptance letter, the pressure on the next child increased. But the Okonokhuas went a perfect five-for-five.

Next: Breaking the cycle, seeing the difference
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