Every November our College Scholars are greeted by their own cheerleading squad — the staff and mentors at East Harlem Tutorial Program (EHTP), who are on hand to help them navigate college and the challenges it can present. This time, when they returned from school for the Thanksgiving break, they were greeted by a basketball legend as well.
Last night, NBA All-Star Charles Oakley joined EHTP’s annual welcome home dinner to celebrate our College Scholars’ accomplishments and encourage them as they head into finals. And he cooked the meal to boot! The New York Knicks top rebounder, who in retirement has become a renowned chef, whipped up a feast including turkey meatballs, mac and cheese, broccoli and bread pudding, to kick off Thanksgiving week.
In this season of gratitude, he also encouraged our College Scholars to remember those who gave them their start: “All your parents want you to do is go to school, stay dedicated, get a degree, stay grounded … they put the hard work in. Show them, ‘Hey, I’m going to carry that torch for the rest of life and make sure you’re ok’.”
What did our College Scholars think of our celebrity chef? Ambar Brito, who is earning her Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Arts Management, had this to say: “I think it’s really cool to have somebody go from a basketball career to cook, because it’s not easy to do.” She added that coming to the annual event “makes me feel like I’m at home.” “I’ve been a part of EHTP since I was in the second grade,” she explained. “It’s fun to come here, break from school and see all the familiar faces.”
EHTP’s College Scholars program, launched in 2012, provides students the support and resources to successfully navigate the complexities of higher education. Scholars have access to academic and career advising, tutoring, annual scholarships and assistance with securing internships, managing personal finances and navigating the financial aid process.
Together our dedicated staff and students experience some great outcomes: our Scholars graduate four-year colleges at eight times the national rate of students from lower-income households. As they discover their paths, we are thankful to be part of their journey.