New York Giants defensive lineman Jay Bromley returned to his alma mater last week to celebrate students who, like him, were at risk of not graduating but beat the odds.
The 73 students were part of the nonprofit Sport & Arts in Schools Foundation (SAS) at Flushing High School.
“SASF and these students have traveled the past four years together,” said SASF President Maureen Fonesca. “We could not be more proud of these young people as they begin the next chapter of their lives.”
Coming into high school unprepared for the next four years ahead of them, the students were considered at risk for dropping out as ninth graders, said SASF CEO Jim O’Naill.
However, in part because of their participation in SASF, 90 percent of the students are on track to graduate on time and most have already been accepted into college.
SASF is a college and career ready program that provides students with after-school programs. With $600,000 in funding from AT&T’s Aspire national grant program, the program has been able to provide individual mentoring and tutoring, college visits, Broadway shows and visits to some of New York’s greatest cultural landmarks.
The program mentors also work with the kids on character building, as well as community service.
“SASF became my second family,” said graduate Priscilla Gilbert. “Because of them I am graduating on time and going to St. Augustine in the fall. They inspire me to better myself, they made me feel smart and make me excited to go to school.
My whole life is different because of them,” she added. “I am a much happier, confident and respectful person.”
For other students, like Taj Maleeak Beckett, SASF was a part of their lives well before high school.
“I have been part of SASF since second grade,” said Beckett. “I have a long way to go to be where I want to be in life, but SASF has put me in the right direction.”
Graduating from Flushing High School in 2009 and himself a part of the SASF program, Bromley shared his experiences and gave the stsudents advice as they move onto college.
“You took the time to get the help you needed and that takes a lot,” said Bromley. “Life is about reacting. Someone can walk in this auditorium naked right now, but it will be about how you react to it. Will you give them clothing? If you make good decisions with your heart, good things will follow.”