SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — A CNY Organization joins together mentorship and basketball to guide underprivileged youth to the path towards success.
Pass Da R.O.C.K works with middle and high-school students blending travel basketball, mentorship, and community outreach.
R.O.C.K. in the organization’s name stands for:
Each is implemented by supporting players on and off the court to ensure a better sense of self and drive for the future.
Founder and Director Nate Peña started Pass Da R.O.C.K. in Los Angeles and moved it to Syracuse in 2001 to advocate for Black and Latino teens battling issues of poverty and racism. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 20 percent of Syracuse children lived in poverty last year and poverty among the city’s Black and Latino residents remain one of the highest in the nation.
Pass Da R.O.C.K. provides an opportunity to those affected by poverty and holds monthly events, including sports outings, camps, college visits, and city trips that give students a chance to expose themselves to different environments. Peña said these monthly events and the organization’s focus on community outreach allow him to make a more profound impact in each student’s lives through their participation, making him more than just a coach.
Pass Da R.O.C.K player Djaquinn Johnson is amongst those impacted by Peña as a coach and a mentor. Johnson didn’t have a father and said he sees Peña as a “father figure type” after returning to Pass Da R.O.C.K following a premature departure from the program. Johnson returned to Pass Da R.O.C.K. welcomed by his teammates, but most importantly received by Peña, who was ready to help him with the guidance he needed as a mentor to be successful.
Peña shares that stories like Johnson’s are why he started Pass Da R.O.C.K. “For me, what I want to pass on to these guys is that regardless of what you were dealt, you can be successful, you can move forward… It’s just a matter of not accepting the hand you’ve been dealt,” Peña said.
Due to COVID-19, Pass Da R.O.C.K’s, monthly outreach events are temporarily on hold, but Peña said they are still working with teens to remain in “their ear telling them that they’re valued, they’re worth something, and if they work hard, they can be successful.”