Moving NYC Forward

YP Spotlights of the Month

June: Education

We are honoring ABNY YP’s educating New Yorkers.
Congratulations to our June Spotlights of the Month, Eleazar Adjehoun and Bonnie Maldonado!

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Eleazar Adjehoun

Paternship Development Liason, exalt
How did you get to where you are today?

I’m a staunch believer in the idea that no one gets to where they’re headed without the support and guidance of mentors. For me, these mentors have come in many forms and I’ve been fortunate to have various people throughout my life intervene and offer insight and guidance when I needed it most. I credit those mentors, the ones who chose to invest in my future and give me an opporunity, for many of my accomplishments. Because of the positive impressions these mentors have left on me, I’m forever grateful to those who saw potential in me when I, myself, could not see it. My journey has been equal parts hustle, mentorship, and God’s grace; shake vigorously, and voila. Here I am.

What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of my students and the role that I’m privileged to play in shaping their growth and development. Exalt’s students are by far some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met; and these are young adults who continually prove their doubters wrong! They refuse to quit in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, and they continue to show up week after week in the midst of their chaotic lives. All this despite the plethora of influences, systems, and traps that surround them and threaten their freedom. I’m very proud of the relationships I’ve developed and the proximity I’ve been granted as I work alongside my students in their journeys towards becoming their best selves.

What advice would you give someone who wants to work in your field?

While working to disrupt and dismantle oppressive systems it can seem as though the work is never ending. There is always more to do, and that won’t ever change. So, in the midst of grinding, don’t forget to come up for air and take care of yourself. Approach every day with urgency, intention, and purpose – whatever that looks like to you. Understand that the young people you’re serving are the best authors of their stories. Listen to them. Treat everyone compassionately, acknowledge mistakes and missteps and learn from them, celebrate all your successes, no matter how big or small.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

I’m almost certain the first English word I uttered as an infant was “Yerr.” It’s either that or “it’s brick” considering I came into the world just days before the big blizzard in 1996. I was born and raised in NYC, however my roots were planted in Togo, West Africa where I spent the first few years of my life. So much of who I am has been shaped by growing up in NYC. This New York identity became most apparent when I moved away to DePauw University for college in Greencastle, Indiana. There I realized that even in the Winter folks wore Sperrys and shorts instead of Timbs.

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Bonnie Samantha Maldonado

Trainer, The Posse Foundation
How did you get to where you are today?

Holistically, today, I am at a place of growth, cultivated through work, family, books, and my realtionships with folks. I am at Posse beacsue of my sister. My sister is a Posse alumna and nominated me for the scholarship my junior year of high school where I was selected as a Posse Scholar. After graduating from college, I participated in the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs and I left with a desire to be in the world of education and facilitating. Posse had an opening for a Trainer position and here we are today. I veiw growing as a person to be essential in growing as a facilitator. This means actively growing in my personal life and interrograting my truth, biases, beliefs and relationships and ways of interacting with other people. The growth is hard and important.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of moments I can witness my Scholars using the tools my co-Trainer and I model and offer to them to support each other and themselves. In those moments, I am proud of the ways they can hold space for each other, question each other and us and hold themselves, stakeholders, and institutions accountable. I am proud to be able to witness the humans they are and proud of being able to grow with them.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

Remember to pour yourself into as much as you pour into others. For folx of color and specifically womxn, queer and/or trans folx of color – specifically black people – this field can feel like home because we are giving back to our communities while also making a living. However, something I am still learning is that I deserve the attention and love that I give my students. Not all of the work is out of love – sometimes work is work.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

1) When I was younger, my sister and I would visit our family in the Dominican Republic every summer. Whenever we would come back, my sister would lament not having a backyard like my cousins did.

2) In high school, I studied at Phillips Andover. Everyone thought I had an accent.

3) At Colby College, a predominantly white institution in Maine, we are required to do an outdoor education orientation. I had to backpack. The others in my group had more experience hiking and backpacking in the woods while I had more experience walking to and from Fordham Road. My time at school solidified that I am a proud Bronxite. I missed my neighbors blasting bachata in the middle of the night.

4) Returning home as a Coro Fellow made me aware that my nostalgia romanticized New York and the critical issues I need to always be aware of, such as the deep racism embedded in our schooling system, public transportation, and housing.

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