A Bay Ridge resident has followed the Jeter.
Eighteen-year-old Derek Hernandez, who is planning to attend Quinnipiac University this fall, was one of four Brooklyn seniors that graduated from the Jeter’s Leaders program, an initiative from Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation established by the former New York Yankee and five-time World Series champion in 1996 to help youth overcome negative influences, lead healthy lifestyles and serve as agents of positive social change.
Hernandez, who started with Jeter-related foundations when he was eight years old, found out about the program while playing baseball.
“Derek Jeter used to host these baseball clinics in Queens. That’s how I got to learn about them,” Hernandez explained. “The current VP of the foundation was a coach at the time . He saw that I was a kid that stood out, talked a lot and may have started a little trouble, but I definitely wanted to be different and do good things in my community and society.”
When he was 12, Hernandez got into the program and realized that it gave youth responsibility to do good in local communities.
“The program really highlights that,” he said. “It allows you to give back to those in need and do service projects.”
One such project involved a trip upstate to pick fresh fruits and vegetables for families in need of food.
During conferences, the members discuss ways to avoid pitfalls like drugs and alcohol.
“They try to give us a voice ,” he said. “Being in the program in eighth grade, you don’t really realize how much you can impact the world.”
Many of the events were attended by Jeter himself, much to the excitement of Hernandez, who attended P.S. 172 and M.S. 51 before graduating from Fort Hamilton High School.
“He comes to our conferences and service projects and speaks with us,” he said. “He tells us a little bit about what is going on in his life. He tries to be involved as much as possible. When we went to Chicago a few years ago, he was even bagging up food with us.”
Jeter showing up to speak to the group was profound to Hernandez.
“He was my role model growing up,” he explained. “He really meant something to the organization and everyone in the community.”
Jeter expressed how proud he was of the graduates.
“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,” Jeter said in a statement.
The foundation also takes a vested interest in kids’ grades and offers intensive help, checking the students’ report cards every three months, seeing which classes they’re struggling with, checking their attendance and giving feedback.
“It’s like having an extra parent,” Hernandez said. “They make sure you have above an 85 in every class and if you don’t, a kid in the program that is doing well in the classes you’re struggling in will help you out.”
Through the program, Hernandez was able to go to a Kaplan course for free, which helped him with his SAT scores.
“They keep you well-rounded in all aspects,” he said. “They give you a sense of family that may be lacking at home.”
Hernandez’s family was proud of his accomplishments.
“My mom was in tears,” he said. “She was happy to see her son be the first person in our family going away to college.”