Alumnus, Rockaway Collegiate High School

“I always knew I had the potential to be a leader.”

Sekenya started attending Rockaway Collegiate High School in Brooklyn, NY during his junior year. Rockaway Collegiate is in a neighborhood where 100% of the students qualify for public assistance. An introverted young man, Sekenya admits, “I would show up and walk through the metal detector every day, spending most of my time trying to stay below the radar—unseen, unheard.” Sekenya was frequently tardy and missed classes. “I wasn’t on track to graduate, and I wasn’t motivated to make a change.”

While Sekenya was gliding past the metal detectors our full-time social worker Ms. Jen, like all of our social workers, acted as a “meddle detector.” She saw the potential in Sekenya, and she began an all-out effort to get him to school every day. “She started calling my mother constantly concerning my attendance. My mother would nag me, and then Ms. Jen followed up, and they basically tag-teamed me to get to school!”

Sekenya did not want to disappoint both his mother and Ms. Jen. “They believed in me: my mom, Ms. Jen, and all of PWC,” he says. Sekenya boosted his attendance from 68% to 95%, and once at school, he became involved in PWC workshops, his favorite of which was the Young Men’s Series. “I’ve always been interested in male empowerment programs, because being empowered means developing your courage and having your voice heard.”

Because PWC helped Sekenya find his voice, he wanted to help other classmates find theirs. He ran for and became President of the student government at Collegiate Rockaway when he was a senior. “Two years ago,” he laughs, “you would not have expected me to be the Student Government President, let alone win the election.” In his campaign, he promised to make sure students have a voice and feel valued in their school. “This was so important to me because PWC helped me develop my voice. They taught me that I have a role to play in shaping my own future.”

For Sekenya, that future looks bright. As a senior, he began working 20 hours a week at McDonald’s and volunteering with the Rockaway Youth Task Force to help restore his neighborhood, still damaged from Hurricane Sandy. “I’m a hard worker,” he says with pride. And this boy who could barely make it to school on time is now a young man attending CUNY’s Medgar Evers College, majoring in business with a focus on entrepreneurship and real estate. He says:

“I always knew I had the potential to be a leader. It’s like it was calling me. And I finally answered. But I think I might have missed the call if Ms. Jen never called my mother, and if I never followed through with the Partnership with Children program.”