Before a packed house at the Villa's 2018 Portraits of Hope Gala, CEO Christina Gullo had the pleasure of presenting a scholarship, courtesy of the MCC Foundation, to Alexia Marathe. Lexi, along with her Grandparents and advocates, Jay and Meenal, then gave the keynote address to the audience. Lexi's speech was an intimate look at her struggles, and ultimately, her triumph over bullying, drug addiction and despair; with help from Villa of Hope.


“Today, I saw the biggest smile on Alexia’s face when she came home and told me that she passed the Regents’ exam with a score of 85 ...” 

Those words, written in a letter to the Villa’s Avalon School by Alexia’s Grandfather marked a significant turnaround in her young life; one that at times had seemed lost, only two years earlier. 

Alexia, or “Lexi” as her friends and family call her, had become part of the alarming statistics around bullying in the US. In 2015, a victim of bullying and cyber-bullying in school, her world spiraled out of control, and she attempted suicide for which she had to be hospitalized. This was followed by an attempted drug overdose and self-harm behaviors, and additional partial hospitalization programs. 

 Lexi’s grades had plummeted, and she refused to return to school. “We had to fight tooth-and-nail for our granddaughter,” said her Grandfather, Jay, “and we did not stop until we were able to have her transferred to Avalon.” 

It was here that Lexi found healing. 

From a very dark place, Lexi rebuilt her life; and blossomed. In the two years that she attended the Avalon School, she made friends, and conquered her academic struggles. She explored art and music, and participated in a work-study program. In June of 2017, Lexi graduated from the Avalon School, with bright plans for her future. She even sang at the graduation ceremony.  

In a letter to the Villa’s President/CEO, Chris Gullo, Jay wrote, “You have created one of the greatest resources for the community at large, and for students in desperate need for a place to learn and grow! You are changing lives every day, with a tremendous and dedicated staff like nowhere else! It goes to show that a team of dedicated teachers guided by outstanding leadership can perform miracles!”

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