Mentoring program helps low-income high school students

Mentoring program helps low-income high school students
Adrianna Aviles (r) and her sister Leilani both are benefitting from Student Sponsor Partners’ guidance.
Photo courtesy of SSP

Students at 11 borough private schools will be provided with scholarships and a mentor for four years of high school through a well-established program called Student Sponsored Partners.

SSP serves 1,200 students every year, with approximately 62 percent of its cohort from the borough, said Debra Vizzi, the program’s executive director, who is also its first graduate.

SSP specifically hones in students with average grades, B and C grades, who are from families with a per capita income of $6,500 to $9,000 per year, said Vizzi.

These are the students who are most often left behind, and who could use support, explained Vizzi.

Vizzi said that individuals donate the tuition and mentors who volunteer their time to be of guidance to the high school aged kids.

Mentors work with these young people through what can be their most formative years, she said.

“One capable adult can save a life and we get to see change and growth year after year,” said Vizzi.

She encourages youngsters and their families who are interested to visit the organization’s website and submit an application.

“We found that anyone who is willing can succeed,” said Vizzi. “Families should apply for scholarships because we have 300 to give away every year.”

The program’s founder, Peter Flanigan, was the first adult that Vizzi said she could trust when she first met him 40 years ago and he offered to pay for her education in a Soundview school and guide her.

Currently, SSP sponsors students at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, All Hallows High School, Aquinas High School, Cardinal Hayes High School, Monsignor Scanlan High School, Mount St. Michael Academy, Preston High School, St. Barnabas High School, St. Catharine Academy, St. Raymond Academy and St. Raymond High School for Boys.

Parkchester resident Adrianna Aviles, 16, who attends the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, said that she saw the benefits of the program through her older sister, Leilani.

Aviles, who went to P.S. 72 and P.S. 83 before she went to high school, said that as one of four children, the SSP scholarship was very important to her attending a private school.

After entering Ursula, she became involved in several clubs, including United Nations and Science clubs.

Her mentor, who along with other people at SSP, provided support and dealt with concerns, most recently reviewing her college essay and helped her go on visits to colleges.

“They are supposed to help you with issues concerning academics or if you want an internship or job; they are a helping hand and can give you support,” she said of her mentor and the program in general. “It is nice to have another person who you can give you support from who is not in your family.”

Her sister was able to stay in touch with SSP and get guidance even after she graduated from Ursula and went to college at SUNY Binghamton, said Aviles.

Aviles is thinking of pursuing a career in the medical field, and is looking at a number of colleges, including S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook.

To learn more about SSP, visit

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procc[email protected] Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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