Kenny Monteiro graduated from Brockton High School in 1999, and now, through his mentorship program, he is tasked with ensuring more teens from his community do the same.
It's an uphill battle — 20% of students in Brockton Public Schools don't graduate in four years, with some dropping out altogether.
"I was born and raised here, but I didn't let certain things define who I was," said Monteiro. "That's kind of what we try to teach them."
He created Friends and Mentors, a nonprofit mentorship program brought into Brockton High School to assist students who need support staying focused on graduation.
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Because two-thirds of Brockton's high school population is Black, and half its residents are, as well, the Black community stands to gain the most from Monteiro's work if he's successful.
Vicky Fortes, 14, is convinced her time after school putting in extra work—on herself — can be a difference maker for her future.
"They're always trying to uplift you and make you feel comfortable," she said. "They want you to be better for your future and they try to help you, so I think it's a good program."
It's not uncommon to find students who deal with stresses at home, distracting them from their academics and graduation. The mentors help them sort through those problems with dialogue and empathy. Often, the mentors have walked similar paths.
"Staying positive is difficult," said Monteiro. "We live in a city where poverty is rampant, a lot of homelessness and drug addiction and gang violence. They see everything."
"So it's like, focus on you and just be resilient, be strong and just continue to improve yourself," he went on. "And anytime you can have someone or a mentor by your side that can help you push along through these vices and negativity that they're faced with, it's definitely helpful."
Currently, 30 students are in the Friends and Mentors program, matched with 25 mentors. They've been at it for two years and believe they have a formula that will make a positive impact — not only on graduation rates but in the city’s ability to create future Black history-makers.