Tomas Baez, Liberty '99, Founds a College Prep Program for Student-Athletes
In the summer of 2005, Tomas Baez started Baseline NYC, Inc., a college-prep and support program to help inner city high school student-athletes develop in the areas of basketball, fitness, education, leadership, and community service. He modeled it on Bank Street's Liberty Partnerships, an after school program from which he graduated in 1999. (Liberty subsequently merged with another Bank Street program, I-LEAD, to become Liberty LEADS.)
"That summer, we helped three female public high school students get full college basketball scholarships," he says, "and they are graduating this year. It's really exciting!"
"Baseline is still in its infant stage, becoming an official not-for-profit just last year," says Baez, who runs it with childhood friend Yamisi Fanga, a graduate of Vanderbilt University. Baez has also relied on advice and support from Maureen Hornung and Kate Sussman, former Liberty staff.
"We have accomplished a lot with very few resources," he says. Baseline has hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas basketball tournaments for high school teams, each of which had a community service component; facilitated a Saturday skill development program on the fundamentals of basketball; fielded three teams (different age groups) and placed them into local and out-of-state tournaments; and helped 19 players get into college, 13 of them this year.Baez, who is 28 years old, is also a full-time history teacher at the High School for Leadership and Public Service in downtown Manhattan.
A graduate of Williams College, he is planning to apply to Bank Street's Principals Institute and the Department of Education's Leadership Academy. "Since my days at Liberty," says Baez, "I have had a passion to be a leader. I have always gravitated to areas where I could have an impact or effect change. As a teacher these past seven years, I've witnessed and experienced a lot, both positive and negative. More important, I've noticed ways I can improve the performance and experiences of teachers, students, and parents in a school setting."
In a sense, Baez has come full circle. He is dedicated to helping students in his classes today the same way that he, struggling in school, was helped by Bank Street's Liberty Program. Baez's mother, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic with limited English, couldn't give him and his sister the help they needed. She enrolled them in Liberty to give them that support. Says Baez, "I've been through the experiences many of my students are going through--the poverty, the struggles in school--and I have a good rapport with them because I come from the same background." Inspired by Liberty, he hopes to help them move away from that against-all-odds background toward a better and brighter future.