- Posted by Michelle O'Gara
- On July 6, 2015
A New Bronx Tale
NEW YORK, May 15, 2015 – Racing home after a high school track meet, Isaac Reyes has butterflies in his stomach. He carries a gym bag over his shoulder and a very important letter in his hand.
“This letter is the big one. It’s from City Tech College, my first-choice.” He is waiting to open it with his mom beside him and his mentor on the phone.
Isaac is a participant in a six-year pilot program launched by the High Bridge Society. Their goal is to help Bronx teens matriculate and complete college. The program is part of Bronx-wide state-funded initiative to promote social mobility in underserved teens.
For many teens in the Belmont area of the Bronx, getting a college degree is not a reality.
Of New York’s 62 counties, the Bronx ranks lowest in high school graduation rates. Only one out of every three students gets to toss their cap at graduation. A stunning new analysis finds only 10% of those high school graduates are ready for college-level work.
Isaac is beating these odds.
Last September, Isaac was matched with a mentor from a vast network of working professionals who volunteer for the program. Isaac dreams of becoming a radiation oncologist. His mentor is Dr. Manny Macchiavello, a primary care physician at NYPH Ambulatory Care. They speak every Tuesday at 7pm.
“Education was key for me overcoming the barriers I faced growing up poor,” says Dr. Macchiavello. “Isaac is a smart kid with a bright future ahead of him. Together we are setting the foundation for something that will transform so many other lives.”
Unlike other programs, the High Bridge Society offers a new model of one-on-one mentoring that starts during a student’s senior year of high school and completes one year after graduating college. “His commitment is my commitment. We see them all the way through,” says Dr. Macchiavello.
In addition to mentoring, the High Bridge Society connects students with the network of resources that already exist to enable students to attend college. Resources include scholarships, grants, and funds for books and transportation.
Isaac will be the first person in his family to attend college. His mom works as childcare provider at a local daycare center, and his dad works a doorman. “Part of what has me wanting to go to college is making a better life for my mom. She’s been through a lot in her life. And nowadays it’s very difficult to find a job with just a high school degree.” Like many parents, Isaac’s mom fully supports him going to college but hopes it will be, “not too far.”
Isaac’s conversations with his mentor fill in the gaps between his loving mother and all the newness that comes along with going to college. “Dr. Mac just gets it. He knows what it’s like to grow up Latino in the Bronx, and everything I have to deal with. He is so full of life. We can talk about anything—from college to my mother’s mofongo recipe.
At 6:59 pm. Isaac and his mom stare at the letter on the kitchen counter, and he starts to dial the phone. “It’s important to be on time for our call,” says Issac as he waits for Dr. Macchivello to pick up.
As he opens the letter, Isaac’s mom’s face is in clenched in deep prayer. On speaker phone, Dr. Mac plays a drum roll with his hands.
“I got in!”
After the cheers, hugs and tears, Dr. Mac says, “I am so proud of you Isaac. Now, let’s talk next steps.”
This is a writing sample of a soft feature story for a non-profit organization