On June 17, STRIVE students, mentors, and program staff gathered on Zoom to commemorate a year full of accomplishments. Attendees celebrated STRIVE’s 15 mentoring pairs and honored its two Class of 2020 graduates, Cameron Jackson and R’Quis Jones. STRIVE also saluted its first three alumni to graduate college! STRIVE Class of 2013 alumnus Paul Fry III graduated from Radford University in December 2019. Middle School Tutoring Coordinator Luís Sanchez-Rosa (STRIVE Class of 2014) graduated from Covenant College, while former Abundant Life intern Hannibal Reid, Jr. (STRIVE Class of 2015) graduated from Old Dominion University.
STRIVE COLLEGE GRADUATE ADDRESSES ATTENDEES
Hannibal joined the Zoom call to impart some wisdom to the current students. Reflecting on his college career, he shared, “You don’t have to be the smartest guy but you definitely have to be the most dedicated. There will be times where you will fail but you have to know that you will bounce back… So as long as you keep bouncing back and you keep believing, it’s definitely achievable.”
Jed Metge, Hannibal’s former mentor and current mentor to Wojtek Kedzierski, gushed, “I’m just so proud. I love that word about dedication, and I wish you could have finished on a better semester but what a word about resilience and being able to get back up. Congratulations, buddy.”
CLASS OF 2019 GRADUATES COMPLETE COMMITMENT
STRIVE gave special recognition to its pairs completing their commitment (through the student’s first year out of high school). Class of 2019 graduate Cardale Emmery and his mentor Jerry Maynard became the fourth STRIVE pair to complete five years together! Cardale shared an update about his first year of college, which started at Methodist University but ended at Virginia State. Jerry shared how proud he was of Cardale for overcoming adversity during his freshman year. Class of 2019 graduate Majestic Stewart was absent, but his mentor Terrance Maynard had a message for him: “Majestic, if you see this, I’m always going to be proud of you and I’m always going to be there for you.”
“You see what someone’s made of when stuff gets really tough and I look up to him in a lot of ways. I think of him as a friend and couldn’t be prouder to be his friend.” – mentor Steven Luck
CURRENT STUDENTS AND MENTORS SHARE
STRIVE’s current high school students and mentors shared next, including Emmanuel Quezada’s mentor of three years, Steven Luck. Speaking on how the mentoring relationship has been mutually transforming, Steven explained, “He would hold me accountable to my stuff as much as I do for him. It’s been a two-way street the whole time. I feel loved by him and cared for by him, and I learn a lot from him every time we hang out. You see what someone’s made of when stuff gets really tough and I look up to him in a lot of ways. I think of him as a friend and couldn’t be prouder to be his friend.”
Listening to the current students and mentors share about their experiences made Hannibal reflective. “I’ve been sitting here scrolling back and forth through all of these faces I’m seeing. I would like to first appreciate the diversity. That’s truly a blessing, especially with everything that’s going on in the world. I also appreciate… [STRIVE] teaching me how to lead and… giving me responsibilities of leading. That has really helped me believe that things that I’m doing are much bigger than me… This whole group means so much to me… It’s really given me a family in a way that I’ve never had before… and I’d like to thank all of you for that.”
CLASS OF 2020 GRADUATES TAKE CENTER STAGE
Lastly, STRIVE’s Class of 2020 graduates and their mentors shared, beginning with Cameron Jackson. “This year is definitely different for sure, but with that being said, it’s also been a really exciting year because I’ll be leaving Charlottesville soon. For the next four years I’ll be at Radford University and I will be a nursing major there… I’d like to thank Juan a lot for a lot of the accomplishments I’ve made. That man… is literally like the best person ever. He’s been such a great mentor to me, I’ve known him for what feels like my whole life.”
“I am telling everyone about this program because there are many times that we had to rely on our faith in the Lord through this journey because life has ups and downs. God doesn’t promise us that it’s going to be a bed of roses… but if we have faith in him, he’s going to see us through it.” – mentor Juandiego Wade
Cameron’s mentor, Juandiego Wade, placed his hand over his heart while Cameron thanked him. Juan responded, “Thank you, Cameron, you touched a brother. I didn’t know I was going to get misty on a Wednesday night. I feel mutually the same way. I’ve known Cameron through 100 Black Men before I got into this program and I was asked to continue on… and it’s been an incredible journey with Cameron these last 6 or 7 years. I feel like I’ve been with him through those pivotal times in his life and I’ve seen him growing from a boy to a man. We’ve gone through the SMART goals and the things that he wanted to do, we worked out how he was going to accomplish it, and he did it.”
Juan was then heartened to notice the Radford pennant on the wall behind Cameron that he gave to him. He continued, “I am telling everyone about this program because there are many times that we had to rely on our faith in the Lord through this journey because life has ups and downs. God doesn’t promise us that it’s going to be a bed of roses… but if we have faith in him, he’s going to see us through it…” He concluded by telling Cameron, “You have a support system here in Charlottesville that’s going to be here for you, brother. Thank you so much, I’m glad I could be part of this journey with you.”
GRADUATES AND MENTORS OPEN GIFTS
After Juan shared, Cameron made one more big announcement. “Another exciting news is I got enough scholarships to actually pay for my first year!” Added Cameron’s mom, Shantisha Allen, from off camera, “Yay!”
After R’Quis’s mentor Bill Wilder shared, STRIVE bestowed gifts on the Class of 2020 graduates and their mentors. The graduates’ gift bags contained a personalized Bible, gift card, framed photos, and a hand-drawn graduation portrait drawn by Abundant Life board member Alex Meador. Their mentors received framed photos and a framed print of the portrait.
STRIVE pairs Christian adult men with Abundant Life’s young men to walk alongside them through high school and help them successfully transition to college or career. Through eight full school years, all 25 of STRIVE’s senior participants have graduated high school on time. Eighty-seven precent of its graduates have attended college, each one a first-generation college student.
You may watch the STRIVE Zoom Party and view the graduation portraits below.