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Athletes and Activists: Mount Student Athletes Build Supportive Communities through Basketball


Riverdale, N.Y. – Like Facebook, and many great enterprises, the Be You Stay True program began with friends developing an idea in a college dorm room. Those friends, Andrew Curiel and Francisco Zeno, both sophomores on the Mount’s Men’s Basketball team, now have lofty goals for the program.

“We want to be an alternative to the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union),” said Mr. Curiel. “We know that many families don’t have the resources to pay for leagues and camps, so we want to keep our program free. We both grew up playing in the AAU system, and now we hope to create a positive place where young inner city children can learn essential life skills through the game of basketball.”

The name, Be You Stay True, originated from Mr. Curiel’s mentor and local pastor. “My pastor was a big influence in my life, and anytime he saw me doing things that were out of character, he would remind me to ‘be you,’” said Mr. Curiel. “Later, when we were thinking of names, we added ‘stay true.’”

This past summer, Mr. Curiel and Mr. Zeno, as well as teammate Matthew Zarnoch ’17, held a camp for elementary school children at Monsignor Scanlan High School in the Bronx. A graduate of Monsignor Scanlan, Mr. Curiel and his teammates were able to provide camp scholarships for all 25 of the participants. “The first thing we wanted to ensure was that the camp was free,” said Mr. Zeno. “We also wanted to make sure it was fun. We showed the campers that while basketball can get serious, it is alright to make mistakes.”

On January 26, the College’s Department of Athletics and Recreation will host the Be You Stay True program, inviting 12 of the camp’s scholarship recipients to take the floor during halftime at the Men’s Basketball game against Maritime College. The children will have the opportunity to play on the home court of the Dolphins while the two teams retreat to the locker rooms.

“We want to reward our camp goers by giving them a chance to play on a NCAA regulation court,” said Mr. Curiel. “It’s going to be a huge thrill for the participants, and that’s what it’s all about.” After this event, the duo will be focused on organizing another free camp this summer. They plan to continue growing the program year after year.

Mr. Curiel aims to pursue a career in sports media, while remaining involved in developing the Be You Stay True program. Mr. Zeno plans to pursue a career as a coach and mentor to inner-city youth. “I know how important mentors can be in a young person’s life,” he said. “When I was growing up, my basketball coach was a huge influence on me. I hope to be able to give back and be a positive influence on as many individuals as I can.”

About the University of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the University of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.