A few weeks after Hurricane Sandy, I was matched with a 9th grader at The High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media in Canarsie, Brooklyn. At first, I was nervous and did not know what to expect. Prior to the iMentor program I’d mentored several young men and other young people but not through a formal program with someone that I didn’t know. I met Taquan in the cafeteria of his high school and my life has never been the same since. It has been such an honor, privilege and great responsibility to be a part of his growth as a young man through high school. We were talking at an event about basketball and he told me that he’d never been to a basketball game. I was like “What?! You’re joking.” So I decided to take him to his first NBA game at Barclays Center and to be a part of the “High Five Line”. To see his face light up and how excited he was was all I needed.
I remember the times we had our tough “man-to-man” talks and I sometimes felt I’d been too hard on him, forgetting that we had built a relationship and it was okay for me to be real and honest with him. His grades were starting to drop and I wasn’t happy about it and knew he could do better. So I challenged him and called him out. A few months after that conversation, he wrote me a note thanking me for pushing him and told me that he needed that convo. We also went to IHOP to celebrate because he did well on his Regents exams and got one of the highest ELA scores at his school.
Fast forward to graduation this past May… I felt like a proud parent seeing him in his cap and gown and watching him walk across the stage. He worked so hard and went through so much, but he stayed focused. I am grateful and blessed that I was able to be a part of his journey through high school.
Our relationship has grown and is still growing as I write this. Taquan is currently a freshman at Alfred State in NY where he is studying Graphics & Media. We are currently still in the iMentor program, now enrolled in the College Years Program.
I am also currently a Senior Program Manager at Business of Sports School (BOSS). I work with the 10th graders and I see how this impacts so many students and not just my mentee. - Thanks in advance for your contribution!