PORT CHESTER, NY -- Last week, STEER was named a recipient of the Westchester County Youth Bureau’s Invest in Kids Grant. The grant process was highly competitive and only eligible to qualified community-based organizations that will provide innovative positive youth development services, opportunities and supports for “at-risk” youth ages 21 and under. STEER anticipates $46,000 a year in funding from 2020 until 2022, totaling $138,000 over 3 years.
The mission of the Westchester County Youth Bureau is to ensure equity and access to formal and informal services, supports, and opportunities for children, youth, and families to thrive. The Westchester County Youth Bureau invests the time, talent, and financial resources to ensure high-quality programming, support, and opportunity to Westchester’s children, youth, and families. Recognizing the extensive diversity and urgency of needs within the community, the Bureau is committed to fostering collaboration, integrating youth voice into its work, and demonstrating effectiveness within funded programs.
STEER will use this funding to provide a variety of support services to 30 students in Port Chester each year. These services include social and emotional learning support, academic support, college readiness support, physical wellness support, and high-touch mentoring support that our student-athletes regularly receive.
It is only with a great commitment to our youth at the County level that programs like Invest in Kids are funded. We wish to express a special thank you to everyone at the Westchester County Youth Bureau for their dedication and service to the youth and families of Westchester. Additionally, a note of appreciation goes to the Westchester County Executive, George Latimer, the Westchester County Legislature, and County Youth Bureau Executive Director, Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, for working to ensure non-profits across Westchester have the opportunity to leverage meaningful and lasting change in our communities.
YONKERS, NY -- On Wednesday, December 11th, STEER hosted it's 6th Annual Holiday Dinner to recognize another successful year for STEER student-athletes, advisors, families, staff, and partners. From Port Chester to Yonkers to the Bronx, the organization brought together it's 4 schools for a night of reflection, acknowledgment, and inspiration.
The night began with an address from STEER's Chief Model Officer, Joe Durney, to welcome and recognize many of the familiar faces in the room. First and foremost, the student-athletes and families, who by virtue of their actions and commitment to improvement determine how successful STEER programs can be. As important as the students and families we serve are the STEER Advisors who mentor and provide services to the student-athletes from induction into the program until high school graduation.
Additionally, Durney welcomed community partners from all over Westchester County, including representatives from Carver Center, Purchase College Athletics, Sylvan Learning Center, Port Chester Community Gardens, the Port Chester Board of Education, the Port Chester Village Board of Trustees, My Sister’s Place, the Old Oaks Charity Foundation, and the Agatha Durland Foundation.
As the night moved on, STEER Advisors introduced and inducted 11 new student-athletes into the program from Port Chester High School, Palisade Preparatory School (Yonkers), and Careers in Sports High School (Bronx). These young people demonstrated commitment, desire, and the need to be involved in STEER programming. All 11 of the new students are paired with a STEER Advisor and receive individualized support services. These students join a community of over 100 STEER student-athletes who are either currently receiving services or have graduated from high school.
Amongst this incredible community are 4 STEER students who addressed the over 200 people in attendance at the event. Lesly Morocho, a senior at Port Chester High School spoke first and told us of the mindfulness jars she created through Advisory Council for Empowering Girls programming. Morocho says “we filled our jars with glitter in all different colors; the colors signified my destiny, my loves, my goals, and my confidence. When I shake the jar it also symbolizes everything STEER has the ability to do for me.”
Next up came Bryonna Truss, a junior at Palisade Preparatory School, who spoke with wisdom about the values of giving when she said, “Some people feel they need to give to others in hopes of karma blessing them in a good way. But giving is something that comes from within you. You’re supposed to give from your heart. Don’t give because you know good fortune is coming back your way. Give to make someone warm at night, or go to sleep at night without an empty stomach. We should all give to one another so we can all grow as one.”
Following Bryonna was Angel Leon, a junior at Careers in Sports High School, who gave an empowering and motivating address to the room. Leon said “Always remember that hard work triumphs all, and never stop working until you achieve your goals and everything you want in life. Always strive to be the best version of yourself.”
Last but certainly not least came Ashley Garcia, a sophomore at Port Chester High School, who spoke to her experiences at STEER and the importance of her family: “They have always had my back at every soccer game and through every injury. I am grateful to have such strong and hardworking parents and to have grown up with two older brothers who have taught me how to not let hard obstacles determine my faith. I am especially blessed to have had a brother who showed me to be a caring person and to help others. I will always keep that trait alive even if he might not be. I truly love every single one of my family members with all my heart.”
The students were followed by the night's keynote speaker, Tony Chiles. Chiles is a product of New York City, more specifically the Highbridge section of the Bronx. He attended All Hallows High School, where in addition to being the school’s valedictorian, he captained the Gaels to the New York State Championship his senior year. Chiles chose to take his talents to Columbia University after receiving many scholarship offers. He lettered in basketball for four years at the Ivy League institution, accumulating assists records that stand to this day, all the while also achieving academic status as a member of the Dean’s List.
After college, Chiles has actively been involved as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, mentor, and college coach. Over a 24 year span, he has coached at some of the nation’s most prominent institutions including, St. John’s, Tulane, Fordham, Iona, Drexel and Manhattan College.
Additionally, Tony is a central figure in the true-life tale depicted in his brother’s book; The Crack Era: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of Kevin Chiles. Tony continues to positively influence the lives of those he comes across and welcomes the opportunity to share his journey that has been filled with many lows amongst the highs, yet always viewed in an optimistic light of the promise we all possess.
The night ended with a raffle where students, families, and partners had the chance to win gift cards, a signed Edson Buddle soccer ball, and much more. Two STEER student-athletes from Palisade Preparatory won the nights grand prize, a 38-inch smart TV that was provided to STEER at no-cost!
An enormous thank you to the student-athletes, families, advisors, partners, staff, board, and donors who made this event possible! It is only with the support of these individuals that we are able to advance the mission while expanding our reach.
Click here to check out some pictures from the night!
On Wednesday, August 21st a group of our student-athletes and advisors from Port Chester High School and Palisade Preparatory School gathered for STEER’s “Summer Service Day” at the Afya Foundation.
The Afya Foundation, now in its eleventh year of service, collects donated medical supplies from local hospitals and health practices. The STEER student-athletes spent their afternoon quality checking packaged medical supplies that will be sent to undeserved health systems in southern Africa. Upon arrival, the STEER students were given a brief orientation by Afya’s high school summer interns who are onsite to help through the duration of our stay. Our student-athletes were tasked with checking the accuracy of labels on pre-packaged supplies, some of which included over 500 items per package. Rather than sort the packages alone, the student-athletes worked together to take on some of the bigger packages; in these self-organized teams, the students assigned each other roles (ex. check the expiration date, counter, organize and repackage) in order to streamline the process.
In two hours, the students and advisors were able to package fifty boxes of medical supplies.
On Saturday, July 13th, STEER’s Advisory Council for Empowering Girls hosted its second workshop in this summer’s “Healthy Lifestyles” series. The Healthy Lifestyles Series began as a result of survey feedback from STEER female student-athletes, advisors, and school coaches who initially identified body shaming and diet habits as areas of concern for STEER female student-athletes. Earlier this year, the Advisory Council hosted its first workshop: a Zumba class followed by a healthy snacking discussion. The council’s second workshop in this series continues healthy lifestyle development by educating the girls on positive mindsets through another fitness class and guided activity. The continuous goal with this series is to provide programming that fosters a holistic healthy lifestyle education.
The second workshop in this series continued healthy lifestyle development by introducing the female student-athletes to the concept of mindfulness. Our female student-athletes participated in a reformer pilates class at Club Pilates Port Chester. Reformer pilates provides a low impact full body workout incorporating weight and resistance training. The student-athletes learned new exercises and techniques that reinforce training of the muscle groups they are used to working during practice for their respective sports. The girls realized pilates, with its carefully controlled movements, is a mental workout as much as it is a physical one. Nani Velasquez, Port Chester High School graduate and incoming Track and Field athlete for Ithaca College said, “I learned that exercising isn’t all about weightlifting and sprinting. You can relax and have a workout at the same time.” Following class, the students learned about “mindfulness” and its importance in one’s daily life. The girls and Advisory Council members shared best practices for reactions to stress and fostered their sense of community as they identified similarities among their peers present at the workshop. The students ended the day by creating their own DIY “Mindfulness Jars” to encourage a regular practice of self-reflection in their daily lives.
YONKERS, NY -- On Wednesday, May 15th STEER held its 5th annual Graduation Banquet. The evening brought together student-athletes, families, community partners, and STEER advisors from three different school districts. Within Port Chester, Yonkers, and the Bronx, STEER serves five schools: Port Chester Middle School, Port Chester High School, Palisade Preparatory School, Careers in Sports High School and Wings Academy.
The evening began with introductions of the 16 student athletes onboarded in New York this spring. From Port Chester seven new student-athletes were presented: Sebastian Alvarez, Rabel Badia, Kelly Barrera, Brayan Coyt, Nicholas Dorazio, Steven Hightower, and Camila Napoli. From Palisade Preparatory six new student-athletes were presented: Daniela Blum, Raheim Bryant, Rayshawn Bryant, Jalen Higgins, Jadin Pereyra, and Daniela Santana. From Careers in Sports three new student-athletes were presented: Yeneli Payano, Elizabeth Martinez, and Jeral Mendoza.
Following these introductions, Dr. Hector Morales-Negron, Director of Peak Mental Game recognized student athletes that have completed the online course by presenting them with certificates and medals.
The night went on to honor two members of the STEER community that have made significant contributions towards supporting the student-athletes this previous year. The Humanitarian Award was presented to Kelly LeGaye, a founding member of STEER’s Advisory Council for Empowering Girls. Throughout the past year, Mrs. LeGaye has helped develop the council’s programming efforts including coordinating an interviewing workshop in partnership with Goldman Sachs. This year’s Byron Womack Award for Excellence was awarded to Coach Sean Stahn, Palisade Preparatory’s STEER Captain. Coach Stahn has consistently gone above and beyond to support his student-athletes as well as his fellow STEER advisors at Palisade Preparatory. Coach Stahn was also recognized earlier in the evening for completing each course level of the Peak Mental Game program, taking the courses alongside the student-athletes.
At the center of the night’s highlights was STEER’s Class of 2019. This year’s class of twenty-three seniors is the largest to date for the organization. In addition, this is also the first class to include graduates from all four high schools STEER operates in: Port Chester, Palisade Preparatory, Careers in Sports, and Wings Acaedmy. The seniors were honored in traditional STEER fashion by receiving their alumni jackets.
Closing out the evening was the inaugural awarding of Byron Womack scholarships through the Byron Womack Scholarship Fund. The Byron Womack Scholarship Fund was established in honor of the legacy and life work of STEER’s late executive director, Byron Womack. The fund will serve to further support our student-athletes by providing scholarships towards their higher education pursuits and expanding programming opportunities for them during their time enrolled in the program. Six scholarships were presented to members of STEER’s graduating class. Denika Foster, an incoming student at SUNY Cortland, was awarded the Byron Womack Community Service Scholarship. Ayenaliz Velasquez, an incoming student at Ithaca College, was awarded the Byron Womack Academic Scholarship. Tyla Dupree (College of St. Rose) and Adrian Rosario Beato (Ithaca College) were both awarded the Byron Womack Leadership Scholarship. Lizandro Espinosa (Monroe College) and Luis Martinez (SUNY Mohawk Valley) were both awarded the Byron Womack Advocate Award.
Congratulations to STEER’s Class of 2019!
The New York State Council on Women and Girls will be honoring female high school athletes from across the State who are planning to participate in athletics while in college. The event, part of Governor Cuomo’s Celebration of Women in NYS, will take place when the WNBA’s New York Liberty take on the Connecticut Sun at the Times Union Center in Albany on May 19, 2019 at 2:00pm.
Student honorees will have the opportunity to participate in a reception with players and women leaders from across the State and a half-time on-court ceremony. In addition, honorees’ names, their high school, the sport they will be playing, and the college they will attending will appear on the continuous ticker in the arena throughout the game.
STEER student athlete Ayenaliz Velasquez is an honor student and a two-sport varsity athlete at Port Chester High School. She was an outstanding player on the Soccer Team and two-year co-captain of the Track and Field Team. She achieved a new personal record in her main event, the long jump, in May 2019. At 5’2” she jumped 17’2”. Not only does she plan to continue her success athletically at Ithaca College next Fall but she is excited to continue her academic studies as an Athletic Training Major. Ayenaliz is passionate about helping others and giving back to her community! She also has embraced her musical talent throughout her high school career. She plays the trumpet and is Drum Major of the Port Chester High School Marching Band. She is also a leader of the STEER for Student Athletes Program.
Congratulations Ayenaliz “Nani” Velasquez, for all your accomplishments! You have made
STEER proud in your time in the program.
On Saturday, May 11th, 2019, STEER hosted its first College Fair in partnership with the Carver Center’s teen program in Port Chester, NY. In the past, STEER has facilitated events centered around the college process but this was this was the
organization’s first time sponsoring an event of the sort. “Accessibility, in terms of location and subject matter, for our student-athletes is something we always keep in mind when developing programming,” says Susana Garcia, Assistant Student Support Administrator at STEER. ‘It’s really exciting to bring a college networking opportunity directly into one of the communities we serve.”
The college fair encouraged the STEER student-athletes to connect with representatives from schools in the tri-state area including: Monroe College, Keane University, The University of New Haven, LaGuardia Community College, Westchester Community College and SUNY Purchase. In addition to speaking with admissions representatives, local college undergraduates were present at the event to speak about their experiences as current students. Among the college volunteers present was STEER graduate, Karmen Pantoja, a current sophomore at Chapman University in California. Karmen spoke about her experiences transitioning to college life, her recent return from a semester abroad in Rome, and her current search for a summer internship in the political science field.
After our student-athletes spent time speaking to representatives and volunteers Purchase College Athletic Director, Chris Bisignano and his team of college coaches, spoke about the college admissions process, and how to avoid pitfalls when navigating the recruiting and admissions process. Bisignano and his coaches placed emphasis on the importance of academic excellence and character when it comes to recruiting. Following the Purchase team, current soccer players at Westchester Community College answered questions for our student-athletes, including what a college training schedule looks like, how they manage academic and sports, and what extracurriculars they are involved in after college.