January 1992 – July 1993
(Scroll down for a slide show)
In 1992, shortly after guest-starring as the main character of an episode in the Cosby show, I created and ran an educational youth mentoring program for the 8th grade class of the St. Aloysius School in Harlem, New York City, in my neighborhood. Several of the children were at-risk youth. Over the course of a semester, I came into their classroom each week with a different, highly accomplished Black or Latino guest speaker. After each guest lecture, I assigned the children to write a thank-you letter to the speaker and an academic paper of their reflections on the talk. I grammatically corrected every paper. The students received credit in English class for their final drafts. I still have copies of all the papers and letters.
The guest speakers included doctors, lawyers, celebrity actors (such as the Cosby Show kids and Joi Lee, pictured below), filmmakers, engineers, scientists, authors, and graduate students, among others. I also took the children on field trips. On one of the field trips the children worked as extras in Arrested Development’s Revolution music video, directed by Spike Lee, who was a friend of mine.
I was the keynote speaker at the students’ 8th grade graduation ceremony. During the ensuing summer vacation, I mentored the youth in my Harlem studio apartment which was just two blocks from the school. I continued to bring guest speakers weekly to my studio apartment, to speak with the teens.
There were several newspaper articles written about my Harlem Youth Mentoring Program. Click here to view one which was published in the popular Harlem newspaper, New York Amsterdam News. (Scroll down for links to more press on the project.)
I have continued my relationships with several of the members of the group, many who are now parents.