At the age of 6, Emilio Romero’s father was deported. Everything changed for a young kid who should have been thinking about going to the ballpark and not the anguish of losing his dad. “It tore me apart. He was like my best friend.”
Now, at the age of 15, Romero has made the best of what life has handed him.
In 2016, he walked into the Albemarle Recreation Center. “I came to play basketball with a couple of my friends, and I saw there was a lady with free pizza,” Romero laughed. “She let us in with open arms.”
That lady is Tesha Boyd, executive director of Promise Youth Development.
Promise Youth Development is a youth mentoring program that uses an intentional approach to youth development. They proactively reach youth through mentoring, instruction, life skills and empowerment.
“Our vision is to prepare youth for success in real life,” Boyd said. “Our goal is to help educate, enlighten and empower our kids to overcome challenges and obstacles that happen.”
For the last three years, Romero has gone from the most rebellious mentee in Promise Youth Development and has now been recognized by the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance as the 2019 Mentee of the Year.
“He was the most defiant, uncooperative kid in the program, to the point that other kids wanted him out of the program,” Boyd said. “However, that all changed when he connected with his mentor.”
The mentoring relationship has been essential to the Romero’s development. Once Romero recognized that the male mentors were there to help him and were going to be a constant in his life, he was able to accept the process and grow.
His mentor is Timothy Gerald, an officer with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
“Emilio evolved from being silent in the back of the room to publicly speaking in front of a large group,” Gerald said. “Emilio has become a leader amongst his peers and his positive attitude has become infectious throughout the other group members.”
Not only has Romero’s attitude improved while attending the program, it has also improved at school. Throughout the various mentoring sessions, it was explained that a positive attitude yields positive results. He displays a respectful approach to relating with his teachers, and his grades and attendance have improved.
“He reaches out to the program leaders and mentors with ideas to enhance the program,” Boyd said. “He's an advocate for kids making good decisions.”
The Promise Youth Development mentoring relationship is based on honesty, compassion and genuineness. Once Romero realized that the male mentors genuinely cared about him and what he does with the rest of his life, he became receptive and opened his heart and mind.
“Emilio stopped relying on information he received from the streets and started listening to the mentors’ words of wisdom,” Gerald said. “The mentoring relationship has challenged Emilio to be the best that he can be in all of his endeavors.”
Romero transformed his behavior and encourages other mentees to participate and take advantage of opportunities the program offers. He began focusing his attention on how Promise Youth Development can give back to the community on a larger scale.
“When I won Mentee of the Year, I was happy myself but happier for others who’ve helped me along the way,” Romero said. “The group has gotten me through a lot of bumps in the road, but we’ve done it together.”
The mentoring relationship is an ongoing process. It isn’t mastered in one session, but the goal is to make Romero strive to be and do his best every day.
The Mayor's Mentoring Alliance educates mentoring organizations about best practices and mentoring standards, ignites impactful and enduring mentor-mentee relationships and connects Charlotte's mentoring community. Click here to learn about the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance.
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