What is PBS TWO?
The vision of Phoudations of Brothers and Sisters Through Writing Others (PBS TWO) is to provide young students in urban areas across the New York City Metro Area with a Literacy program with a particular focus on writing skills that fosters brother and sisterhood with college students from universities across the east coast. We believe the mentorship that comes from successful college students can have a profound impact on our younger generations and the future of our nation. Additionally, the literacy curriculum associated with PBS TWO will enhance the reading and writing skills of minority children in urban areas. Our principals of brotherhood, sisterhood, scholarship, service, and literary enhancement will drive us to be the most successful mentorship-writing program in preparing our students for rigorous literacy standards assist in the mental and interpersonal relationship growth that all children need to develop.
An alumnus from Jersey City who wrote his college essay on “playing with the hand he was dealt” now works with disadvantaged youth in Washington, D.C., to make sure they have a “better hand” to begin with.
Sean Larry Stevens ’10, who majored in Africana studies with a concentration in education and Latino studies, is a bilinguist, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, poet, self-taught pianist and violinist, and member of Phi Beta Sigma; he could have had any job he wanted after graduating — Wall Street and Harvard both beckoned.
Instead, as he recounted in his talk at the third Soup and Hope session, Feb. 17 at Sage Chapel, he joined Teach for America to work in the lowest performing school system in the United States, because he said, “everyone, no matter what their race or what situation they were born into, can make something of themselves if they persevere and press on — no matter what.”
His own life is proof of that.
“Where I’m from?” Stevens asked, which he answered by reading from an autobiographical poem: … “Gun shots, crack pipes, ambulances all night … young boys running from cops…/Education begins in the school of Hard Knocks.”
Stevens’ “hard knocks” included living from one welfare check to the next with his grandmother, whom he called “the backbone of my entire existence,” in a neighborhood known for drugs, prostitution and violence.
At age 11, Stevens witnessed his aunt, suffering with AIDS, have a seizure; at 15, his aunt and two uncles were in a hit-and-run caraccident. One uncle, who was 27, died in Stevens’ arms.
While attending high school, where the students were primarily black and Latino, Stevens decided to apply for and was accepted into the elite, private school Dwight-Englewood. He was asked to repeat ninth grade and became one of three African-Americans in that class. Despite the racism and isolation he encountered, Stevens eventually graduated and was accepted at Cornell.
At Cornell, Stevens joined the primarily black Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, where he found the support he craved — professors, fraternity brothers and Victor Younger, diversity and special programs coordinator, who all believed in him and his talent. “I did not do it alone,” Stevens said.
Stevens now teaches in a school two blocks from the projects, motivating young men and women to “never give up, never give in, and never let a ray of doubt slip in.” The principal was recently murdered, and Stevens has received threats on his own life. Why does he press on? “Because of a seventh grader who smiles when he conquers grade four language skills,” Stevens said. “Because of my desire to change the lives of so many people who are suffering, of so many young men and women who are going through what I went through.”
Stevens concluded: “There’s no greater joy in the world than to have a profound effect on changing lives of other people,” he said. “If you dare to dream, you will have the audacity to achieve.”