Celebrating a Great Start and a Bright Future

Our young men with their mentors and Foundation staff members. (Photo by Omar James Mendoza)

With several months of work in the rearview mirror, and the first round of goals achieved, it was time for a party to celebrate our “Bigger Pie” mentoring program.

Yohance Whyte took first in the evening's competitions, Tariq Washington second, and Braylan Stewart third. They went home with Amazon gift cards.

Yohance Whyte took first in the evening’s competitions, Tariq Washington second, and Braylan Stewart third. They went home with Amazon gift cards. (Photo by Jeffrey Cowitt)

So our young men, their mentors and Foundation staffers gathered at The Bridge Golf Learning Center on Feb. 28 for a night of games, music and camaraderie. Our mentors had a chance to talk about their roles, and our students shared personal letters with their mentors. Then the mentor-mentee teams participated in putting, chipping and golf trivia competitions. Program Coordinator Reggie Mays Jr. was the DJ.

The celebration was also a time for reflection. Mentoring is not always easy for the mentor or the mentee. Building trust can take time.

Connor Monaghan and Kyle Barthelmy.

Connor Monaghan and Kyle Barthelmy. (Photo by Omar James Mendoza)

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time as a mentor despite some challenges along the way,” said Connor Monaghan, who has been working with Kyle Barthelmy from our after school program. “I really love meeting with Kyle at the Center each weekend to play golf and chat about the goals we set for him, as well as his life goals. Over the course of our time together Kyle has continued to open up and let me into his life, which I am very grateful for.”

The Bridge Golf Foundation started this ambitious and innovative new program in late October. Together, students and mentors set personal, academic and professional goals, and students earn microgrants (small cash payments) for achieving those goals. Ilya Podolyako, a tech investor, has funded the grants.

Andy Newman and David Canton.

Andy Newman and David Canton. (Photo by Omar James Mendoza)

Andy Newman, the managing director of Know Better Cause, a charitable foundation started by Know Foods, has been working with David Canton. Know Foods is partnering with our Foundation to provide snacks for our after school program, and Newman handed out T-shirts at the celebration. Over the past few months, he has helped David set and achieve goals, and he has tapped into his personal network to help David make connections.

“David always brings enthusiasm and positivity to our meetings,” Newman said. “We set strong goals together, and he met every single one is an extremely timely matter. I enjoy listening to his interests, whether it be school, sports, family or animals. David said he may want to be a veterinarian, and I was more than happy to introduce him to a veterinary professor I know at Virginia Tech.”

But these mentoring relationships are about more than goals and connections. They are about forging friendships that benefit both parties.

Daniel Aires and Braylan Stewart.

Daniel Aires and Braylan Stewart. (Photo by Omar James Mendoza)

“We text about his goals, school, and golf,” said Daniel Aires, who has been working with Braylan Stewart. “We also text randomly about anything and nothing, which is nice because it’s not forced and it’s a fun way for us to stay in touch. A few weeks ago Braylan texted me out of the blue because he had just crushed his longest drive ever. He included snapshots from TrackMan. I was at work when the text came through, and it made me smile because I could sense how proud he was, and the fact that he wanted to share the news with me immediately was heartwarming.”

Our students have forged great relationships with their mentors over the past few months, and the program is just getting started. We are very excited to see where it takes our students and mentors in the coming months and years.