Five incoming Queens college freshmen were among 10 students were inducted into the Derek Jeter’s Leaders Program, while one Queens senior graduated from the program exemplifying what it means to be a good role model citizen.
Louis Annunziata, 18, of Howard Beach, graduated from the Derek Jeter Turn 2 Foundation’s New York Jeter’s Leaders program during a special ceremony held on June 27 at Prospect Park in Brooklyn that celebrated students’ academic achievements and welcomed the 2023 class of leaders.
The five Queens inductees into the program include: Jaiwant Singh, of Rego Park from Forest Hills High School; Breanna Rodriguez, of Ozone Park from FDNY High School for Fire and Line Safety; Anayah Solomon from the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture; Sarah Mancusi from Forest Hills High School; and Maliha Jubaed from Brooklyn Technical High School.
“Over the past four years, these students have continuously gone above and beyond to serve as leaders in their communities and create positive social change, and they’ve inspired other young people to follow their lead,” said Jeter. “I’m also excited to welcome our newest class of students, and I look forward to seeing how they grow and excel throughout this program.”
Turn 2’s signature initiative, Jeter’s Leaders is an intensive four-year program for high school students who serve as ambassadors for Deter Jeter in their communities. Established by Jeter in 1996, the Foundation motivates youth to rise above negative influences, lead healthy lifestyles and serve as agents of positive social change. Since its inception, Turn 2 has served 178 New York Metropolitan students through its Jeter’s Leaders program.
Annunziata, who attended the Churchill School and Center, and is one of eight high school seniors who graduated from the Leader’s program, is heading to Farmingdale State College this fall.
“I’ve had a lot of good experiences and it really prepared me for the real world,” said Annunziata. “I’ve definitely learned how to be a team player because everyone has to put in the same amount of work, or else it’s not really fair, and you never know that might happen in college with a group project.”
Throughout the course of the program, Annunziata spent time mentoring kids, working on group projects, and community service projects such as picking crops on a farm and painting murals at a school, he said.
Annunziata plans to obtain his master’s degree in business management and becoming an entrepreneur. His message to the class of 2023:
“Definitely be open to new ideas and never take anything for granted in this program because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and not many kids get this chance that you have,” said Annunziata.
To be accepted into the Jeter’s Leaders program, applicants must be residents of the New York Metropolitan or West Michigan areas in the eighth grade at the time of application, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. All applicants must be drug and alcohol free and involved in community service or extracurricular activity in their school or neighborhood.
When Rodriguez, 14, found out about her acceptance into the program, she was in tears and overwhelmed with joy, she said.
“Right now I’m really focused on bettering myself in high school. My academics are good but could be better,” said Rodriguez. “I think this program will give me the extra push I need to improve myself.”
It’s certainly an opportunity for Rodriguez, who is looking forward to expanding her knowledge and becoming a firefighter one day.
“I love helping people so much. I don’t do it for a tap on the back; I do it for my own happiness,” said Rodriguez. “Being able to do it as a career would be amazing for me. I watched a lot of shows like Chicago Fire and 911 and it drew on my interest in that area.”
For a community service project, Rodriguez said she would like to help the homeless — an issue she said is a problem in today’s society.
“There’s so many people who don’t have enough money and are on the streets. I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to help someone in need,” said Rodriguez.
Singh, 14, said he’s looking forward to promoting a healthy lifestyle and serving as a role model to young students, delivering positive messages to his peers, and building on his character.
“My goal is to achieve academic success and improving the community as well as being a doctor,” said Singh. “I feel really comfortable in the program and it’s going to be a really great experience.”
For the past 14 consecutive years, 100 percent of Jeter’s Leaders have gone to attend college after high school. Every Jeter’s Leaders is awarded a $5,000 scholarship by the Turn 2 Foundation upon graduation from the program.
“From volunteering in their communities and serving as role models to their peers, to excelling in their academics and achieving their goals, these students have grown into outstanding leaders throughout their four years in this program,” said Sharlee Jeter, president of the Turn 2 Foundation. “We are incredibly proud of these young people and we know their futures are bright.”