Rock-Climbing Mentorship Program Helps Show High School Students the Steps

High school students are scaling walls and cliffs as part of a new mentorship program. NY1's education reporter Lindsey Christ has the story.

It is part risk-taking, part strength-building, and part relationship-building.

Teenagers from two high-poverty high schools are learning to rock-climb – a sport most of them had never even heard of before signing up.

“It's really fun to do,” said one of the program's students, Kamrul Hasan.

Hasan moved to the city three years ago from Bangladash. He signed up for the mentorship program City Rocks after other students at his school recommended it.

For Porgo Agama, a recent immigrant from Burkina Faso in West Africa, it was the chance to connect with an adult that drew him to the program.

"I want to get out of my comfort zone, and I want to learn new stuff,” Agama said. “But then I heard also that they had mentors.”

“And I'm like, ‘I need somebody in my life to show me the steps,’” Agama added, “and how I'm going to take action in order to be somebody in life."

City Rocks is a non-for-profit program that partners with the Brooklyn Boulders gym in Gowanus. Members volunteer as mentors and then go through extensive screening and training before being paired with a student from either International High School in Prospect Heights or East Side Community School.

There are 50 mentoring pairs, and each meets at least four hours per month. But many meet much more often.

"It's been a really cool process getting to know her and getting to develop a relationship with her,” City Rocks mentor Margrit Pittman-Polletta said about one of her students Isatu Jalloh. “That's been the focus of our work together.”

“We've explored climbing,” Pittman-Polletta added. “We've done other things also outside of Brooklyn Boulders."

"We've been really close these days,” Jalloh said. “She helps me also, not only with climbing, but also with college and college applications and letters of recommendation for scholarships."

The program is in its third year and early results are promising. One hundred percent of the seniors in City Rocks graduated from high school on time.

"Mentoring works,” said the founder of the City Rocks Mentoring Program David Owen. “Research shows that kids who are in well-run programs like City Rocks are more likely to attend school, stay on track to graduation, go on to college, and get jobs."

"Every day that I come, it's a new adventure,” Agama said. “And I love it." 

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