Matthew and Jennifer McPherson are successful business owners in Tucson who overcame difficult obstacles to reach their goals. Each of them served time behind bars and struggled with substance abuse, but they were able to change their lives with faith-based programs and a commitment to create a new beginning.
Snack Shak and Rebel Rack
Snack Shak is a student-led, student-run program that aims to end weekend hunger for teens at Tascosa High School in Amarillo, TX. Snack Shak allows middle and high school students to choose their own brand new, brand- name food items by ordering online while maintaining their integrity through an anonymous form. Similarly, Rebel Rack provides clothing for students in need at Tascosa.
Enjoy their stories of mentoring and guiding young people to academic and life success.
For more stories of Champions watch American Graduate Day on WCNY, October 14 at 2:00 p.m.
Becoming a Man with the Syracuse City School District
Joe Horan’s grassroots Building Men program in the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) teaches boys the importance of education, community service, and becoming “A” man not “The” man. The program is built around a basketball league in which the boys listen to guest speakers, discuss relevant topics of manhood, go on field trips, monitor their academics with progress reports, community service, and participate in a Rite of Passage ceremony upon the programs completion. Kids who show up at the weekly chalk talks, and do well on weekly academic and disciplinary progress reports, play in the games. But it always turns into more than that. The goal is that young men in Syracuse will see themselves as part of a larger fellowship of men who have excellent attendance in school and in after-school programs; graduate from high school and college and career education; participate in community in some level; and have the ability to make a significant impact upon society. The numbers show something is clicking. Since Horan started the first Building Men chapter at the old Levy Middle School in 2006, nearly 300 boys have completed the program by attending at least 80 percent of the sessions. Of those students, between 75 and 89 percent went on to graduate from high school over the past four years – far above the district average of about 50 percent.
From generation to generation with Hillside at Onondaga Community College
Renita Adams is a mentor making a big difference for students. Deonie Chavis, a former Corcoran High School student now enrolled at Cookman College, contacted WCNY about Ms. Adams in hopes of having her story shared. Wrote Chavis in an email to WCNY, “Mrs. Adams was my Hillside Work Scholarship-Connection advocate and guided me through high school from academics to things I was going through in my personal life. She even helped me tell my mom about my first crush! She’s very personable and goes above and beyond and made a difference in the Corcoran community and surrounding community.” Adams is a Hillside mentor at Onondaga Community College in a program designed to help Syracuse students living in generational poverty transition from high school to achieving success in college and expanding their access to employment opportunities. Adams says she can relate to these students because she used to be one of them. She understands their lives and the temptations they face and I share my story with students all the time, in part because it helps them open up with me about what’s happening in their lives. Adams also had a mentor in her life that pushed her to get through high school, community college, and Syracuse University. “I want to be that same person for these students,” says Adams.
Manufacturing innovation in Central New York with MACNY
Joe Vargo is the executive director of Partners for Education and Business, Inc., which operates under the umbrella of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York (MACNY). Joe passionately believes it is important to “engage students early and provide a meaningful education towards a career in manufacturing or STEM fields.” To accomplish this, Joe oversees annual manufacturing career, law career and STEM job shadow days, organizes STEM scholars networking with business leaders events, and in 2017, the inaugural Central New York Innovation Challenge open to middle and high school students. The challenge: encourage students to develop groundbreaking products or services to address a challenging problem, which they “pitch” to a panel of judges to win cash prizes. The benefits of Law Day are two-fold – as American citizens, it’s important for youth to understand the need for the justice system and how it works; also, the more we can demonstrate to youth that the value of living their lives as good, active and contributing citizens has benefits for them, the better chance we have of them making good choices and being more engaged in decisions about their future.” Joe is also involved in the Syracuse Pathways to Technology (P-Tech) P-Tech program, a collaboration of the Syracuse City School District, MACNY, and Onondaga Community College. This partnership incorporates a six-year program that offers students a unique experience; combining the best elements of high school, college and career training to earn both high school and college associate degrees. Last but not least, Joe has teamed up with WCNY to help educate middle school students about manufacturing jobs through WCNY’s Enterprise America program.