Medrano emerging as community leader in Sunnyside

Medrano emerging as community leader in Sunnyside
Kenny Medrano (2nd from r) with his Road to Greatness team fund-raising for after-school programming in Sunnyside.
Courtesy R2G
By Bill Parry

A group of young adults is trying to help the next generation in Sunnyside find, and stay on, the proper path.

Emerging community leader Kenny Medrano, 30, founded Road to Greatness last year to fill a void in the neighborhood that was left when the Boys & Girls Club of Sunnyside/Woodside disbanded in 2014, ending his Torch Club program for young leaders.

“I was disheartened because I grew Torch Club from the ground up and then I lost it,” Medrano said. That summer he volunteered to run a basketball program at St. Raphael’s Church and then he did the same with a soccer program at the Long Island City YMCA.

That led to a partnership with PS 199 and the PTA to create a pilot program that provides after-school arts and sports programs in Sunnyside and Woodside. Other area churches, community groups and civic associations became involved and Road to Greatness was launched.

Two weeks ago, more than 60 Road to Greatness, also known as R2G, supporters gathered at a fund-raising event at Maggie Mae’s at 41-15 Queens Blvd. More than $2,800 was raised to bolster programming this fall.

“Yes, this is for the kids, but it is also for the neighborhood, getting like-minded people together to do something positive for the kids,” Medrano said. He grew up in Sunnyside with an Ecuadorian single mother who immigrated to the United States and Medrano witnessed her struggle with personal and financial hardships.

At an early age, lacking the support network he needed, Medrano became an at-risk youth, leading to depression and ultimately expulsion from high school.

“My mom had just lost her job downtown after the Sept. 11 attacks,” he said. “That’s when I knew I had to step up and be a man. I worked several jobs to help my mom pay rent and electricity. I didn’t care about clothes.”

He wasn’t alone. Several friends also found themselves at risk, and a few attended the fund-raiser.

“I hate that term — “at risk” — but it’s true. Many in my circle of friends went through the same thing, but we used the bad times as a motivator so you don’t become a statistic,” Medrano said. “We know firsthand that sometimes you need a positive figure—one that is there to help our youth chart a path of success and foster a support network to help them thrive. When you get kids in the fourth and fifth grade, that’s when you have the ability to motivate them. That’s when you can get them on the right path.”

Rev. Neil A. Margetson, the pastor at Sunnyside Reformed Church, is a supporter of Medrano’s organization, having run youth programs of his own for many years.

“We understand that parents cannot always provide all the help and support their children might need in order to excel in their studies,” he said. “Consequently, Road to Greatness meets a critical need in our neighborhood of Sunnyside-Woodside.”

R2G currently provides programming for 40 children at the YMCA and 20 at PS 199, a school that lacks full-time art or gym teachers.

“Road to Greatness is such an amazing place where kids come to draw, play and interact with one another,” said Tara Delasnueces, parent of 10-year-old a participant in the program. “The kids love it and are always looking forward to attending. We’re all very grateful for Kenny’s determination to get this program started. The community needs more people like him with the mind-set to make children a priority.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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