Tyrese has been coming to the Betances Community Center for over three years now, and “since I came, I never had a reason to leave,” he says. It’s easy to see why. A gregarious 13-year-old who loves school, dancing, singing, and hanging out with his friends, Tyrese found Betances to be an ideal place to express himself and grow into a strong young man.
In 5th grade when he started attending the Betances after-school program, Tyrese recalls having a difficult time in school as he was shy, being bullied, and on the borderline of failing. At Betances “everybody allowed me to express myself and now all of my shyness has gone very, very, very far away!” Tyrese also notes with a wide smile that he learned strategies to overcome the bullying.
He was thrilled to have help with his homework for the first time, and learned a trick to help him remember what he was learning for school – to turn the material into a song he could remember! This is a perfect technique for musically-inclined Tyrese, who also loves to sing “songs about helping” in the showcase performances Betances holds several times a year.
Another favorite activity for Tyrese is the dance group he and his peers started when they first came to Betances. Staying active is important to Tyrese, as he had a major health scare a couple of years ago. He passed out suddenly and was hospitalized for two weeks; doctors told him he had sleep apnea and it was crucial that he lose weight and get more sleep. When he told Betances staff what was going on, they encouraged him to use their free exercise facilities to get fit.
Tyrese is grateful, saying that Betances was “the only place for me to go.” He diligently started using the treadmill every day, began a strict diet, and lost an incredible 60 pounds! Reflecting on how he got so unhealthy to begin with, Tyrese recounts that he “was going through some emotional distress with my father...I would sit and eat ice cream to make myself feel better.”
“Tyrese is a great success because he was able to utilize the center to get healthy and then has also integrated himself into everything offered here,” says Betances Program Director Lisette Nieves.
Now a teenager, Tyrese participates in Betances’ Safe Passage after-school transition program for 13- to 15-year-olds, and he enjoys that they talk “a lot of strategy about teen issues, like [not] smoking, drinking, getting pregnant.” He also participates in a mentoring program, part of NYC’s Young Men’s Initiative. Lisette and staff chose him to participate in the pilot program as they saw that he could benefit from positive male influences. “If I need someone to talk to, I talk to my mentor,” he says. “We have a lot in common.”
Tyrese comes to Betances every day because “I get another family and it keeps me away from the streets,” he says. Everyone at Betances and at BronxWorks is grateful to all of you, our supporters, partners, and volunteers, for being part of the family that lifts lives like Tyrese’s.
The Betances Community Center, a partnership with the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development Cornerstone Initiative and NYC Housing Authority, offers an engaging after-school program and summer camp that combines structured recreational activities with additional academic support, creating a safe space for children to learn and have fun. Betances offers a variety of activities for teens and adults that provide opportunities to explore diverse interests in a safe haven, many of which would otherwise be inaccessible. Youth are given critical opportunities to develop leadership and team-building skills through activities such as basketball, dance, cooking classes, physical fitness activities, and open mic events. Questions or comments? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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