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Program Helps Young Professionals Mentor Local Kids in Crown Heights

By Sonja Sharp | August 24, 2012 8:27am

CROWN HEIGHTS — It's a career fair for the back-to-school set.  

Crown Roots, a soon-to-be nonprofit aimed at linking local kids with neighborhood newcomers eager to share their skills and passions, will host it's first 'inspiration fair' — a cross between a job fair and a walk-in workshop — in Crown Heights on Sept. 15.  

"It got started through this idea of inspiring kids, but it’s also inspiring the community to come together and inspire the kids," said Jaret Stezelberger, who, along with neighbors Bianca Russo and Rich Guzman, was busy sketching big plans for the hatchling organization on a recent evening.

The group is angling to launch their first after-school program this fall with an "inspiration fair" full of fun, free-form classes in subjects from science to dance. 

"We'll have something like a career fair, where they can go around the room and participate in some mini classes," Stezelberger said. "The idea is to give them a positive environment where they can express themselves, play and learn and have fun, but in a less structured environment than school."

Stezelberger has lived in Crown Heights for two years, Guzman and Russo just a handful of months. But the trio all agreed there was something about the neighborhood that made them want to leave their mark there. 

"This diversity in residence [in Crown Heights] is awesome, and I want to celebrate that, but I also want to see the two come together and benefit each other," Stezelberger said. 

"I feel like with all the young professionals moving into the neighborhood, they have something to offer a lot of these kids that may not have been exposed to some of the paths that these young professionals have taken."

The group said they and others had longed to find a place to put their skills to work outside the office or the classroom. 

"For me it’s about giving back, and knowing that what I’m doing is making a difference in at least one kid’s life," Stezelberger said. "I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I have something that I can offer, and I’d like to create that opportunity to offer it."

But more than anything, Russo said she hoped the organization would help foster relationships that drew her to Crown Heights in the first place. 

"I feel like we have such a strong community here," she said. "I love this neighborhood, and I want to be a part of it."