by: Lulaine Compere
A.L.A.N.Y. closed down recently for lack of funding. According to the Norwood News, the President and C.E.O. Israel Rodriguez hopes to start the program again in the Dominican Republic.
The Bronx One on One Mentoring Program may have to close its doors when their budget cycle starts and they do not have enough money to operate. Like many non-profits, the budget cuts New York State is instituting are having a huge affect on the organization. Rodriguez says after September 30, 2011 the funding for A.L.A.N.Y. will be gone.
“It’s tough we continue to help and we have over 120 matches for kids with mentors” says Rodriguez. “ACS has even been sending some their kids to work with and we did a presentation to the New York City Council and the members liked it.”
A.L.A.N.Y. was formed in 2005 when President and C.E.O. Israel Rodriguez finally made his dream to work with kids in New York City a reality. The organization’s primary focus is to mentor at risk youth who but it has grown to be more of a holistic approach to helping all people not just children. It started when Israel Rodriguez was going about his regular duties as assistant to Ex-Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez when he was out of office in 2004. That is when Rodriguez came up with the idea to start the program.
“I needed help to make it a reality so I started doing my homework on what I needed to do” says Rodriguez. “Finally someone pointed me in the right direction so I decided to start a non-profit organization.”
The organization held conferences about different subjects that affect the Latino community including juvenile delinquency and undocumented immigrants getting driver’s licenses that got a lot of attention from the media.
“At that time I was doing informal mentoring, then one day one of the applications I put in for funding came through there was a $600,000 grant check in the mailbox from the federal government approving my organization’s application” says Rodriguez.
Rodriguez had to go through what he describes as a rigorous background check by the federal government to make sure the money was going to the organization. Once the funding came through A.L.A.N.Y. received training from Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization, the United States Department of Education, and the Department of Justice for mentoring kids. After applying and winning another grant to mentor kids whose parents are incarcerated the organization was in full swing.
“The mentors do more than mentoring” says Rodriguez. “If we don’t have the resources we partner with organizations that do have them, and help the people that way.”
The mentoring happens through A.L.A.N.Y.’s Bronx One on One Mentoring program or B.O.O.M. They work with at risk children ages 8-16 like those in foster care or those whose parents are facing deportation or incarceration and are matched through their needs and interests with the mentors. After interviewing the parents and the child a mentor is chosen. The mentors are given a thorough background check and then they are given the chance become positive role models for the child but there is a need for more male mentors. There are support systems for the mentors like meetings every month where they can hear about each other’s experiences and learn from each other. Some even get helped with job referrals as well.
“A lot of the mentors are from school so we try to help them as much as possible” says Johanna Alcantara Program Director for A.L.A.N.Y.
Also in helping the children, the community as a whole and the mentor’s themselves are helped by their services.
“Some people walk in for information and we refer them like if the need legal aid or help on immigration” says Jackeline Ramos, Mentor Coordinator for A.L.A.N.Y. “A woman walked in, she had three kids and she wanted to know how she could get her G.E.D. to become a home health aide, we referred her to a place where she could get it and now she is on her way.”
Robert Ruiz has been mentoring at A.L.A.N.Y. for two months and he loves the job. He was previously a correctional officer in Riker’s Island and said working there gives him a chance to make a good impact.
“I go pickup my kid up after school once a week and see what’s going on with him, I recently brought him to library to develop a love for reading” says Ruiz. “These are the kids that might end up in the place I used to work in so influence plays a big role in their lives.”
According to Ruiz many of the kids are book smart but they need guidance and that’s the message Rodriguez wants to leave people with when they think of A.L.A.N.Y. and urges desperately for help to keep them open.
“In five years we have accomplished so much and we can serve thousands” says Rodriguez. “We have a passion to serve kids and the community, transforming the future one child at a time.”