Donovan Johnson, Class of 2018
Donovan first became a part of the Crossroads family when he was six years old during the summer of 2007 at Camp Wing. Initially, Donovan wanted to take part in every program that Crossroads offers: Overnight camp, Crossroads Junior Leaders, and C5 Leaders. Soon after beginning his time at camp however, he would frequently get into fights with his fellow campers so much there was concern that he would not be recommended to apply for C5 Leaders. Fortunately, the staff and counselors who worked with Donovan saw that he was full of potential and just needed help focusing his energy. Reflecting back on this time in his life Donovan said, “By working with counselors like Moira, Menos, Lisa and so many more, I settled down and started becoming a quiet, outgoing leader. They showed me why the way I had been acting was bad because it almost always would lead to more negativity as opposed to positive outcomes. By changing my attitude I was also able to form even stronger bonds with my counselors and classmates which made the experience so much better.”
Once he turned 13, Donovan was offered the opportunity to apply to the C5 Leaders program, was later accepted, and has been thriving ever since. When asked if he has any advice for younger Crossroads participants, Donovan said, “Take advantage of every opportunity Crossroads gives. It will make all of your experience better and it will make you a better person and leaders. Also, try and form strong bonds with all of your classmates and keep in touch after Crossroads. You go through so much together and they are a great resource to have.”
Donovan is from Somerville, MA, graduated from the C5 Leaders program in 2018, and currently attends Suffolk University.
Unique Hodge, Class of 2018
In 2007, seven-year-old Unique Hodge began her journey at Crossroads’ Camp Mitton. In a sharp contrast to the Unique of today, this little girl was shy and reluctant to speak in most situations. But as her days at Mitton continued on, the magic of Crossroads and the genuine care of the staff began to break down Unique’s walls. She began to fully embrace this new experience. As things started improving for Unique at camp, she was faced with challenges back home.
In a single year, Unique and her family lost both of her maternal grandparents. In that same year, they also lost their home in a fire. Her family was displaced and overwhelmed as they worked to navigate a path forward towards some sense of normalcy. During their most difficult days, the family endured life without a home or personal belongings; they wandered the streets and took showers at the YMCA. In the midst of all this, Unique’s mother worked three jobs. She searched for a new place for her family to live, mourned the loss of her parents, and tried to figure out a way to pay for Unique’s upcoming first year at private school.
Back at camp, Unique was more determined than ever find her own voice. “I felt a sense of confidence in myself that I never had before, I was not afraid to voice my opinions in front of my whole class, and I knew that I had the ability to organize and to lead,” Unique said. When reflecting back on this time in her life, Unique said, “Two things kept me sane: my mother’s strength and the support of Crossroads. My mother worked hard to give me a better life and Crossroads supported my family so we could get away from the daily struggle. They both taught me to believe in myself and to push myself out of my comfort zone.”
We are so privileged to have accompanied Unique on her 10-year Crossroads journey, beginning at Camp Mitton, transitioning to Camp Wing, and now as a recent graduate of the C5 Leaders program and current undergraduate student at Harvard University
Kelsie Drown, Class of 2017
Kelsie was first introduced to Crossroads in 2013 when she was an eighth grader at the Plouffe Academy in Brockton, MA, diligently planning out her future. One of Kelsie’s teachers saw great leadership potential in her and felt she would benefit from Crossroads’ five-year teen leadership development program, C5 Leaders. Though initially nervous about the new opportunity, Kelsie was never one to back down from a challenge. She eagerly accepted a spot in the program.
During her time with Crossroads as part of the C5 Leaders program (2013-2017), Kelsie was a model participant. As part of the C5 curriculum, all participants are required to complete 30-70 hours of community service each year (increasing by 10 hours each year) with a capstone Medallion project requirement in their final year. Kelsie also played a crucial role in the planning and implementation of the Medallion Service Trip in her final year of C5, hosting her own fundraiser ultimately raising over $300 towards the trip.
By her high school graduation and end of her time with C5 (officially), Kelsey had logged well over 1,000 hours of community service. Because of this dedication to service, Kelsie also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award at C5 graduation. The award recognizes a U.S. citizen who has achieved 100+ hours of service over a 12-month period.
Kelsie currently attends Boston College where she double majors in Elementary Education and Applied Psychology & Human Development, while also pursing a certificate in teaching English language learners.
Luna Charles, Class of 2015
As a 7th Grader growing up in Brockton, Ma, Luna had lots of opinions but was too shy to share them. She let other people define who she was. Her parents, both Haitian immigrants, worked hard to provide for their family. They were always so busy that it was hard to connect them and it felt like no one understood her. That was before Crossroads. Crossroads saw her potential and recognized that she needed something extra to fully reach it. As soon as Luna got to camp, she was hooked. Everything the counselors did just showed how much they cared about the campers like Luna. They showed love, respect, consistency, and safety. Because of this comfort, Luna was ready to fully express herself and who she was. Even when she went back to school after that first summer at camp, Luna remained dedicated to continuing the lessons and self-discovery she began to uncover over the summer. As the summers and years passed, Crossroads continued to push Luna to be her best self possible. Eventually, in her Medallion year, Luna’s perseverance had a huge payoff as she was accepted to Quinnipiac University – her top choice in schools. In reflecting upon her time with Crossroads, Luna said, “A lot of people call Crossroads their second home, but I call it my first. The people here are my family. Crossroads represents the people who really care. Here I learned that I can be great in this world. I know that with Crossroads behind me there’s nothing stopping me. I have so much of my journey still ahead of me, but I am well on my way largely in part due to Crossroads.”
Chibuzo Anene Class of 2011
Central to all of Buzo’s experiences with Crossroads and the C5 program have been the selfless people at Crossroads, who in some cases have devoted summers, years, or even over a decade of their life towards this important goal of empowering youth to unlock their potential with the hopes that they might positively impact their communities and the broader world around them.
“The guidance and mentorship I received through the staff at Crossroads, and their example of service to others has had a lasting impact on me and has really guided many of my personal and professional pursuits through the years,” Buzo said. “Their example of service to others influenced my decision in college to seek roles where I was able to be of assistance to others, whether that was in my decision to become a Resident Assistant, to take the initiative to start a peer mentoring program in my college of nursing, and to represent my peers on my university’s Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council. I undertook these and other service oriented leadership roles at my alma mater, UMass Amherst, and was one of 10 seniors in a class of over 5,500 to be awarded the university’s prestigious 21st Century Leadership Award. The example of service to others set by my mentors at Crossroads C5 is a large part of why I decided to pursue a career in healthcare.” Buzo has worked as a nurse for over three years and is now on track to apply to medical school soon.
“My value and belief in altruism, service, and a desire to give back to others, especially to those coming up behind me, can be threaded back to the impact that my mentors at Crossroads C5 have had on me. And while I am not entirely sure what tomorrow will bring, I do know that yesterday, when I needed a helping hand, Crossroads reached out and pulled me up, much like the family in the story from earlier. Now, today, and every day moving forward, it has become my life’s purpose to continue that thread of compassion, and to continue to help others in whatever way that I can.”
What Buzo found in Crossroads was an army of camp counselors, trek leaders, administrative staff, and Directors who from day one made it clear to him and the other campers that they were there for them, that they had their best interest in mind, that they wanted them to succeed and go far in life, and that maybe they saw in them something that they had not quite yet seen in themselves.
Keveisha Robinson-Clark, Class of 2010
Since 2014, Keveisha has been serving Boston (specifically Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Mattapan) as an outpatient clinician as Children’s Services of Roxbury and a school-based clinician in two Boston Public Schools. As an Apprentice as Crossroads, one of the campers who she had a close bond with Keveisha, “All social workers lie.”
“Prior to this statement, I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. When the camper made this statement, I felt if I could change the perception of what it means to be a social worker, then I would be able to help people in my community,” said Keveisha.
Through the Apprentice program, Keveisha was able to work with a variety of children from Massachusetts, broadening her horizons and opening her up to the lives some children live. She wanted to ensure that youth, especially youth from her community, had better experiences with social workers. Crossroads is honored that we were able to help Keveisha find her passion and calling in life. As an Apprentice, Keveisha made a difference in the lives of so many youth, and we know she will make a difference in the lives of countless more.
Nate West, Class of 2010
Nate graduated from the NYPD Academy, where he had been training for six months. His first official day as a police officer was on Monday, April 4, 2016. He is currently assigned to the Midtown North precinct in Manhattan, where he will do patrol on foot as well as by car.
“Being a cop isn’t only about making arrests and locking people up. A lot of the job is interacting with the community and building a positive rapport,” said Nate. He has always wanted to be a police officer, and has always felt it was the right way for him to give back to his community.
“I wanted to be a police officer when I was a kid, and I wanted to give back to my community. I felt the best way to do that was to make the streets safer for youth. Being a police officer allows me to leave a positive impact in any community that I serve, and feel like I made a difference in someone’s life by helping them when they are in need. It’s a great feeling.”
Nate believes his time in the C5 Leaders program gave him some of the leadership skills he’s needed to succeed. “C5 taught me how to be a more effective leader. The workshops and the experiences I’ve had there during the summer really helped to mold me into the person I am today. I saw how effective it is to take a kid from the inner city and give him/her options, showing and teaching them things that are outside their everyday environment.” Here at Crossroads, we are so incredibly proud of all the amazing things Nate has accomplished, and look forward to seeing the bright future he forges for himself.
Justyne Collier, Class of 2010
Justyne is currently an 8th grade Language Arts teacher in Westwood, MA. She gives back daily by trying to inspire her students to learn that they are capable of amazing things, and through thoughtfulness and effort they can achieve their dreams. She has found that the district she works in is very high-achieving and pressure-filled. Justyne works closely with students to help them recognize that they are not defined by a grade on a report card. By the time she was in 3rd grade, Justyne knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I was making my own tests and forcing my younger cousins to play school with me as the teacher. They thought it was torture but I loved it,” she said.
Her experience as a camper and counselor helped Justyne build the skills she needed to be successful. “I feel so very lucky to have been both a Crossroads camper and counselor. As a camper, Crossroads took a quiet girl and showed her that it is okay to take risks, it is okay to speak your opinion and it is okay to fail because there are people who will pick you back up. As a counselor, Crossroads provided me with the opportunity to work with different children from all different walks of life. I learned how to deal with disagreements, how to keep a group of children entertained and I learned responsibility.”
“It is one thing to aspire to be something – it is another to go out there and become it,” said Justyne. It is always a pleasure to hear about our young people achieving their dreams and making a positive impact in the world. We encourage paying-it-forward, and we are so inspired to hear how Justyne is doing just that.
Luis Fortes, Class of 2009
Since September 2014, Luis Fortes has been working with City Year, and is currently working as a national admissions coordinator. His work involves implementing a consistent process for identifying, selecting and placing diverse 17- to 24-year-olds to service in schools across the nation to keep students in school and on track. “I live to inspire and motivate others to identify their passions and achieve their goals. I have dedicated most of my life to lending myself as a resource for youth to work towards their best future,” said Luis.
Luis believes in the power of young people, empathy, teamwork, excellence, and inclusivity. When looking to start his career, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in admissions and found strong parallels between City Year’s mission and foundation values, his own beliefs, and what he learned at Crossroads. “Crossroads prepared me by giving me years of leadership training which I often call on to take initiative in my role, but also showed me the importance of compassion within the work I do daily.”
Luis can frequently be found around Crossroads, lending his time, expertise, and enthusiasm to our programming. We are honored to have Luis as a part of the Crossroads family, and sincerely value his dedication to helping young people rise above their challenges and reach their goals.