Changing Lives… Building Communities

13 Apr, 2011 | News

Mentoring Program Helps Youth Realize Their Potential

Meet LaShawn and her Big Sister Jennifer

Before sixteen-year-old La’Shawn Sylvester became part of Catholic Charities mentoring program, La’Shawn was timid and introverted.  However, within two years at our Big Brothers Big Sisters program, La’Shawn has blossomed and now has the necessary support system and guidance to forge ahead and achieve her dreams. Dedicated staff matched her up with her “Big Sister” Jennifer Velasquez, who was recently crowned Miss Puerto Rico of the National Puerto Rican Parade. And thanks to the support and positive influence of her mentor and caring staff, La’Shawn has become outspoken and confident, and is developing strong leadership skills that will serve her well in the future. She is excelling in school, meeting new goals and creating a bright future.  


Since being part of Catholic Charities, La’Shawn’s mother, Julia Thompson, says La’Shawn has become a sociable young lady with a clear focus and direction in her life, which is crucial to the success of teenage girls today. Her current grade point average is 90% and her Math and Science grades have significantly improved thanks to the tutoring she receives from her mentor.


A sophomore in high school, La’Shawn is studying Business Finance. She is a leader in school and serves on the school’s Student Council. She also helps find advisory board members and individuals to sponsor the school’s student body so that they can go on trips and have after-school activities.  She is involved in round table business exploration discussions with the office of the Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Currently, she is a member of Toastmasters International and is completing an internship at the National Academy Foundation.


Although only in 10th grade, La’Shawn is already exploring various colleges and will soon start visiting prospective campuses, where she hopes to major in Business Law. Recently, she joined the Leaders of Tomorrow Program sponsored by the National Academy Foundation, which helps her learn college readiness skills and finance information such as how to start and maintain a bank account.


Ms. Thompson is grateful for the positive difference our mentoring program has had in her daughter’s life and for giving her daughter a “Big Sister” whose friendship will last a lifetime. La’Shawn comes back home beaming after her outings with her “Big” and loves to share her experiences with her mom. She feels inspired to make a difference now has a clear direction for her future.


Her “Big Sister” Jennifer shared that “since meeting La’Shawn, I have witnessed her blossom into an amazingly confident and driven young lady.  In the past few years, she has identified her high school and college goals, and participated in various educational opportunities that have added to her accomplishments.  Our match has provided us both with a genuine and solid support system where she can rely on my guidance and I in turn have her support in all my endeavors.  Our outings went from quiet moments to on-going conversations about all things under the sun!”


“I think mentoring programs are necessary in the community because they help to empower our youth.  As a Latina, I have a vested interest in my community, and I feel that I have a responsibility to give back to the community that affected my own upbringing.  The youth today have less guidance and positive role models directly accessible to them, so I am very proud of organizations like Catholic Charities Big Brothers Big Sisters and their work to connect the two,” says Jennifer.