New York's former First Lady Matilda Cuomo is back in the spotlight, promoting a project dear to her heart. And she went back to her alma mater in Brooklyn to do it. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
After graduating almost seven decades ago, former First Lady of New York Matilda Cuomo once again walked the halls of Midwood High School. This time, it was to give back by launching a mentorship program here.
"It's the unique experience of the one-to-one," Matilda Cuomo said. "It's not electronic, really. It's just humanistic, to talk from one to the other."
About 50 freshmen will be mentored by 50 senior honor students. Mentor and mentee will meet once a week for an hour.
"Some of them who are challenged by the high school experience, they're going to have an older student in this building who will be their advocate and help provide them with the extra assistance they're going to need to be successful," said Michael McDonnell, principal at Midwood High School.
Matilda Cuomo's appearance here continued her return to the civic stage two years after the death of her husband, three-term governor Mario Cuomo.
It was during his second term, in 1987, that she created the mentorship initiative.
"I called it the New York State Mentoring Program. And it was the first in the country," she said.
The program ended in 1995, a year after her husband left office. But her eldest son, Andrew Cuomo, who is now governor, urged her to ressurect it.
"He said, 'Mom, use the same model. Call it another name. Call it Mentoring USA, Now you can go national, international, and daddy can't stop you.' So I like that," she said.
Mrs. Cuomo, a former teacher, revived the program, expanded it overseas and wrote a book about the importance of mentoring, "The Person Who Changed My Life."
"Here, you have all these stars who, you know, starting with my husband, I had to put him in, and Andrew, and Christopher is on the back," she said, pointing out faces on the front and back of the book.
About 1,000 students in New York State now take part. But as she flips through her yearbook, she says it's extra special for mentoring to happen in this school, where a young Matilda Raffa once attended classes.
"I'd love to come back at the end of the year and see the change that comes over those children," she said.
The Midwood Mentoring Program kicks off in March.