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Sparking Entrepreneurial Spirit in NYC Youth


Cornerstone Mentoring

The Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) has released evaluation results for the Cornerstone Mentoring (now DYCD Mentoring) program’s high school expansion. The evaluation, which was conducted by Westat in the fall of 2017, found that mentoring can help change young people’s views about education and their career, improve their relationships, and promote continued engagement in their communities.

Based on some of the promising findings from this and prior evaluations of the program combined with a goal to provide comprehensive, coordinated services to youth, the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) piloted the Cornerstone Mentoring program model at other DYCD afterschool programs during the 2018–19 school year. While the overall number of program sites remains consistent at 62 sites serving up to 744 youth, DYCD is piloting group mentoring at some sites within the Beacon, Compass NYC, and Learn & Earn programs.

Launched in 2012 as part of the NYC Young Men’s Initiative, the Cornerstone Mentoring program administered by DYCD provides mentoring support to youth as they progress through key life and educational transitions. The original program model aimed to enhance existing services of Cornerstone community centers in New York City Housing Authority developments by connecting volunteer mentors to groups of three to four youth for weekly group mentoring. Throughout the academic year, participating youth and their mentors engage in academic and career support, group discussions, community service, and recreational and team-building activities, often based on mentees’ needs and interests.

Being a part of the program was an opportunity for Edison, who is interested in starting his own business, to develop valuable entrepreneurship skills. As a part of the Tiburon Entrepreneurship Challenge, Edison and his four teammates, Jan, Jalen, Josh, and Mitchel engaged in a 12-week exercise brainstorming business ideas, conducting market research, prototyping their product and developing a business plan. Throughout the process, the team’s mentor and program staff from the El Puente Taylor Wythe Cornerstone Center provided valuable feedback and support. The team’s product, Fresh KIXS which is a protective cover for sneakers made using a translucent and flexible plastic to protect it against dirt and moisture when worn during bad weather, was ultimately selected as the winning idea of the Entrepreneurship Challenge. The team is excited about further developing their product to fit high heels and other consumer needs, and looks forward to making Fresh KIXS a household name.

Basketball was what first brought the Fresh KIXS team members to the Cornerstone Community Center, but Cornerstone Mentoring has also brought them closer together off the court. Jan, who has been a part of the program for three years, considers his peers, his mentors and the Cornerstone Center staff like a second family. They have supported him and watched him grow into a young man, and are helping him achieve his goal of attending Duke University. Jan and the other team members continue to make an effort to give back to the community by volunteering at the Cornerstone Center to help younger students. They are also looking forward to returning to the program as mentors.

To learn more about the evaluation findings, read Early Implementation of the Cornerstone High School Mentoring Program, and Findings at a Glance.

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