Taking a break from his biology studies at Penn State University, 18-year-old Clinton Aiyedun said he would not be the young man he is today were it not for his mentors at the United Black Men of Queens.
“They showed me that I count in my community and I count in the world,” said Aiyedun, who is attending college on a partial scholarship the foundation provided.
On Friday, Aiyedun will return to Queens when the United Black Men will recognize this year’s crop of 15 young men at its 37th annual Community Awards and Scholarship Dinner-Dance.
Aiyedun said one of the things his mentors instilled in him was a sense of duty to be the next generation of mentors.
“I’m coming back to the group because I feel I have to help other generations after me,” he said. “As much help as I got from them, I should help others.”
Executive Director Rodney Pride said that after years of mentoring the young students, the scholarship is a way to keep the door open.
“Since we’re not able to see them every day in college, this affords us the opportunity to touch base and say, ‘Hey, how are young doing? Do you need any help?’” he explained.
Jeff Oyo, who is studying economics and mathematics at the State University of New York in Buffalo, said he takes every chance he gets to touch base with the group.
“Every year I keep in touch. Anytime I’m down back in the city I try to touch base and continue the relationship,” he said.
The United Black Men mentor young students of color throughout southeast Queens. Most recently the group partnered with more than two dozen schools for the Dads Take Your Child to School Day.
This year’s priority, Pride said, was to help August Martin High School get a fresh start. The school, named after the first African-American commercial pilot, has a new principal this year after the city almost closed it. School officials planned to rename it the School of Opportunities at the August Martin Campus. The school was placed on this year’s list of poor-performing schools.
“For the first year we’re trying to start fresh and anew and build a high school that hit rock bottom,” Pride said.
A number of other things are looking up in southeast Queens. Average English and math scores for third- through eighth-graders in southeast Queens’ District 29 have climbed in six out of the last seven years. Just this year the popular Eagle Academy for Young Men started the school year in its new home, the former Allen Christian School. The all-boys school partners students with mentors and is a hit in the community.
Pride said that over the 20 years he has lived in the borough — the last five of which he has spent with the foundation — things have improved.
“I think we’ve made headway, but we still have a long, long way to go,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@
©2012 Community News Group
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