The Washington Post

Wendy Fulgueras: The class star

The woman once chosen “Most Likely to Succeed” as a sixth-grader sits down at her dining room table, before a stack of scrapbooks from her days as the Dreamers’ star. Wendy Fulgueras, who now goes by her married last name, Alband, is a resident based at a veterans hospital in Hampton, Va., where she practices internal medicine and serves as a lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve. As a graduate of a prestigious college and medical school, she exemplifies what Abe Pollin and Mevlin Cohen hoped to accomplish when they adopted 59 children at Seat Pleasant Elementary.

Yet for all her success, Wendy was one of the few Dreamers who did not need the program. The daughter of a Filipino doctor and nurse, she was college bound from the start.

“I always knew I wanted to achieve great things academically,” she says.

At 35, she struggles to remember the names of her Dreamer classmates. Yet Wendy, petite, married and pregnant with her first child, remains attached to her memories of her school years, many of them neatly pasted into her scrapbooks. Turn the page, and there’s the program for the play the Dreamers performed Dec. 20, 1988, “The Case of the Counterfeit Santa.” Turn the page, and there’s the certificate Wendy won June 6, 1989, for academic excellence.

There’s her college essay, the same one she sent to Harvard, Yale and Vassar, in which she wrote that she “hopes that someday I will gain acceptance to a fine university and show Abe Pollin and Melvin Cohen that I have not squandered the opportunity they gave me.”

Upstairs in her bedroom closet, she still has the gift Pollin and Cohen gave her when she graduated from Vassar, an unused leather briefcase, now dusty, with her initials on the front. Sometimes she thinks about throwing it away, but she never does.

Wendy’s enduring attachment is not rooted in the financial help the men offered, but in the phone call Pollin made on her behalf as she applied to George Washington University’s medical school. Pollin had gone to GW and had friends in powerful positions there.

Told by Tracy Proctor about Wendy’s impending interview, Pollin said, “I’ll call you back.”

Fifteen minutes later, Proctor says, his phone rang.

“She’s in,” Pollin told Proctor.

“What do you mean?” Proctor asked.

“Tracy,” Pollin repeated. “She’s in.”

Seated in her dining room all these years later, Wendy says her sense of appreciation for Pollin has grown with time. Knowing him was the closest she ever came to growing up with a rich uncle who could make anything possible. All she had to do, she says, was have the vision for what she hoped to accomplish, and put in the work.

Paul Schwartzman specializes in political profiles and narratives about life, death and everything in between.

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