By Joanne R. Giff
The dream of many a young athlete is to eventually advance to at least a collegiate level of play in his or her chosen sport. Antonio Stevenson was one of those fortunate athletes. Antonio himself will attribute his success to more than his personal dedication, but to the coaches and mentors who devoted their time and expertise to guide and support him on his journey. Presently, Antonio is paying forward the gift of mentorship by forming a non-profit to reach into the lives of local at-risk youth. He has named his non-profit, My Brother’s Second Chance (MBSC).
Antonio’s inspiration for MBSC comes not only from the desire to honor the gift of mentorship he received as a youth, but also from witnessing a tremendous need. Antonio currently works as a case manager for Goodwill Industries International, Inc, as a personal trainer at the Jerry Long YMCA, and as a defensive coach for the Parkland High School football team. He takes every opportunity to guide any and all youth who cross his path. Antonio has been in a position in all three of his jobs to mentor young men and to daily witness the need for it. During Antonio’s formative years, he was without a daily strong male presence in his life who he felt truly cared about him, until his high school football coach, Jim Bovender, entered his life. Not only was he a stellar coach, but he cared about his players as individuals. He cared about Antonio and what type of man he would become. He was more than a coach, he was a mentor. Due to coach Bovender`s influence and support, sprinkled with guidance from some uncles and men in his neighborhood, Antonio was able to focus on long-term goals.
Regarding the current need for mentorship programs, Antonio recounted a recent incident in his job with Goodwill. “A young man was referred to me because of some of the decisions that he was making in school. For example, he was arriving late, and talking back to his teachers, and sometimes just not coming to class. He was showing up to school because he did not want to miss lunch. I spoke to him and found out that he was 14 and had a sibling …a year younger, who was also making similar poor decisions. It was obvious to me that they had no guidance at home. After meeting their mother, I saw why they were experiencing so many difficulties because she was young herself. I helped them both to set some goals, and to do what was asked of them while in school. In return, I would bring them both lunch every Friday. I received a call late one night saying they were hungry and their mom was gone. I got out of bed and took them enough food for the weekend. I felt as if I did what I could for them that weekend. It was very important for me to make sure that they were fed and safe, because my mother never left me and my brothers alone to hang out with friends and party. She always made sure that there was plenty food in the house.”
Antonio’s goal is to find mentors to be a positive presence in the life of local at-risk youth. He wants to encourage young people to stay in high school, stay drug- free, to meet their goal of either going to college or obtaining employment right out of high school and, most importantly, to live a productive and healthy life. He has a waiting list of young people. If you are interested in mentoring or helping Antonio in any other way to reach our local youth, please contact him at email@example.com.