In wake of the tragic death of 15-year-old Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz that shocked America to it’s core, the Bronx is doing all that it can to keep the innocent boy’s memory alive.
As the number of candles on the corner of Bathgate Avenue and 183rd Street continue to grow exponentially, as do murals around the Bronx, so do contributions to Junior’s family and community organizations.
In wake of the tragedy, Councilmember Ritchie Torres allocated one million dollars to seven police precincts in the Bronx to combat the dangerous rise of gang violence in the borough, those being: the 40th, 42nd, 44th, 46th, 47th, 48th (Junior’s home precinct) and 52nd precincts.
“I pushed for $1 million to be included in the recently adopted City budget and it will go directly to the 48th precinct for ‘Cure Violence’ gang-violence prevention initiative. This will take a holistic approach that will connect former gang members and violence interrupters with youth who may be at risk of joining gangs, and link them to social services, conflict resolution specialists and legal services as needed,” said Torres.
He also partnered with Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work to announce a ‘Care Café,’ a free psycho-educational presentation that will focus on trauma response and community healing methods.
Growing up, Junior had dreamed of being a police detective, since January he had enrolled in the NYPD Explorers program in the 45th Precinct.
Bruce and Howard Bendell, owners of City World Automotive also contributed a generous $25,000 to the Explorers program in the wake of Junior’s passing.
“The most important thing is making the donation, we want to lead by example and hopefully have other businesses step up so we can increase the totals of the money contributed, we want to get the word out,” said Bruce Bendell.
It costs about $500 to cover each child or teen’s enrollment in the explorer program, so this contribution alone gives 50 children a free opportunity to join for this summer, as spots are still open.
The Explorers program also completely covers an opportunity for these kids to attend the Law Enforcement Exploring Summer at Camp Keowa in the Catskills.
“For a lot of these kids it’s a chance that they never get to leave the city,” Bendell added while mentioning that he and Howard had contributed to the program for years, giving any Bronx adolescent the chance to become an explorer.
The NYPD has also established two $5,000 scholarships to be given to two high school graduate explorers in Junior’s name.
“There is no better way to honor a young man whose stated dream was to become one of the greatest detectives in the world than by establishing a memorial scholarship in his honor,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Celebrities like Cardi B, Carmello and Lala Anthony have all contributed and paid respects to Junior and his family as well.
The Bronx rapper donated $8,000 of a larger $329,723 donated to his family; while the Anthonys venerated his memorial.
Junior’s sister, Genesis had her high school graduation overshadowed by her brother’s unfortunate passing.
So, Lala took her and the rest of their family out to celebrate at the Sugar Factory in Manhattan.
“Thank you so much Lala for giving me a genuine smile throughout these hard times,” Genesis posted on Instagram. “I will appreciate you forever, thank you for making me feel so special.”