March 12, 2018
While school transitions are often full of excitement and promise, Deon’s transition out of high school was defined by the loss of his grandmother. In this challenging time, Deon turned to the El Puente Taylor Wythe Community Center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which hosts S.T.A.R.S Athletics, a sports program that uses basketball as a way to connect with youth and promote long-term success. While basketball was the initial draw for Deon, it was the support of his mentor Romel through the Cornerstone Mentoring program that helped fill the void left by the loss of his grandmother. Romel taught Deon how to communicate his feelings and shared many life lessons.
Cornerstone Mentoring is a group mentoring initiative that aims to shift youth perspectives on school, behavior in school, and attitudes toward teachers and peers during transitions into middle school and high school. It is offered by Cornerstone community centers in public housing communities and managed by the Department of Youth and Community Development in partnership with NYC Opportunity and the NYC Young Men’s Initiative. Two new evaluations, released this month, show that Cornerstone Mentoring is making a real difference in the lives of its young participants.
One of the essential life lessons Romel imparted to Deon was the inherent value of a college education. By teaching Deon about college life, including how to get on track to get admitted, Romel opened a door to new possibilities. Deon soon realized that he had to shift the role of basketball in his life. He now uses the strategies he learned while playing the sport to further his long-term academic goals. Throughout their mentor-mentee relationship, Deon says he has “stuck to Romel like glue,” and there is no end in sight.
“So instead of shutting down completely, and not saying anything, just speak to that one person, to at least let someone know what’s going on, because no one would know what’s wrong.” -Deon
As a mentor, Romel became “that one person” for Deon. Ever since the start of their mentee-mentor relationship Romel has helped Deon reach many of his goals. Deon is now a student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and serves as a mentor for the S.T.A.R.S Athletics program. His motivation for becoming a mentor was to be a role model to youth in the community, just as Romel was for him. Throughout the week, you can find Deon coaching the nineteen and under S.T.A.R.S Athletic teams, helping kids with their homework, and finding new ways to give back to his community.
Two new evaluation reports reinforce key themes from Romel’s and Deon’s experiences, finding that participants in Cornerstone Mentoring build strong relationships with their mentors, engage consistently in their communities, and report high levels of belief in the importance of school and confidence in their ability to succeed academically.
To learn more read about the mentor experiences in Strengthening the Mentoring Program and the Cornerstone Mentoring Program's Role in Supporting Engagement in School and Learning.