|NYPD Lieutenant Michael Almonte, NYPD Police Officer Darnell Gatling, and mentee Serenity Brown throwing out the first pitch on Tuesday night. Provided by New York Yankees.|
On the second day of Yankees HOPE Week, the team honored Blue Chips, and NYPD co-ed youth mentoring and sports program that focuses on bridging the gap between police officers and young people throughout New York City, using sports and education to create stronger bonds.
This is the 13th edition of Yankees HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel), a week-long community program that gives recognition to remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities.
Over each of the five days, the Yankees will reach out to an individual, family, or organization worthy of recognition and support, providing honorees with a day celebrating their accomplishments. For more information about this initiative, which is spearheaded by Jason Zillo, Yankees Vice President of Community & Media Relations, visit hopeweek.com.
Yankees players Nestor Cortes, Wandy Peralta, Miguel Castro, Albert Abreu, Rob Marinaccio, and JP Sears, along with third base coach Luis Rojas, visited the New York Police Academy in Queens to spend time with the Blue Chips mentors and mentees taking part in the program.
|Mentors and mentees from the Blue Chips program. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Lt. Michael Almonte speaks to the group. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Nestor Cortes (center, in cap) and Luis Rojas (at right) enjoy the speeches. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|Group shot of the attendees. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|One of the attendees gets a selfie with Nestor Cortes. Provided by New York Yankees.|
|A check is presented by the Yankees to the Blue Chips program. Provided by New York Yankees.|
ABOUT BLUE CHIPS (Provided by New York Yankees)
"Never underestimate the influence mentoring can have on someone's life."
Those words from NYPD Lieutenant Michael Almonte encapsulate the mission of Blue Chips, a co-ed youth mentoring program he created that aims to bridge the gap between police officers and young people in New York City.
The year-round program, which officially began in July 2021, serves New York City youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and connects them with mentors in the NYPD to help put them on a path to success.
Through various sports such as basketball, flag football and softball, as well as other activities like drama clubs and book clubs, officers are able to bond with the youth and build relationships with them on a personal level.
"This program is a tool that we use to humanize the badge, to show the community that officers are human beings," said Officer Darnell Gatling, who helped Almonte create the Blue Chips program. "This is an opportunity for regular patrol officers to have time to do what they love and enjoy the fulfillment of giving back to the community."
In addition to building meaningful relationships with the kids through sports and other activities, Blue Chips also offers mentoring sessions with guest speakers. These sessions cover important subjects such as financial literacy and entrepreneurship, equipping young people with skills that will help prepare them for the future. The program also serves as a safe haven from crime and other negative influences, giving children a place to go for support and a positive reinforcement.
"I get away from everybody. From the streets and all that bad stuff," said 16-year-old Damien Maldonado, a participant in Blue Chips. "I come to practice and have fun with the coaches. It's like a family bond. I look at [the officers] like they are my brothers and father in a way."
Mentoring young people and positively impacting their lives is the primary focus and the foundation of Blue Chips, but the program may have just as much of an impact on the officers.
For Almonte, giving back to the community through the program has been a "dream come true," and the bond the officers and kids create has a lasting impact on all lives involved.
Graduating senior Gabriel Jarvis of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, is an example of how Blue Chips is changing the trajectory of local lives. He recently received 11 college acceptances and will be attending St. Peter's University next fall with over $100,000 in grants and scholarships.
"I was headed down the wrong path," Jarvis said. "With the help of Lieutenant Mike and others, I was able to turn my life around...Underneath my braids, there's a scholar who has been on the honor roll for two consecutive years. I would like to express to you not to judge a book by its cover. My mentor was able to give me the direction I needed and lead me on to the right path. He gave me the blueprint, and I did what I was supposed to do, and I got here. I could have been on the road to Rikers Island but instead I'm on the road to college."