With the help and guidance of Male Success Alliance (MSA) student mentor Robert Head, high school junior Jovany Paz won a multi-school essay contest and the opportunity to serve as honorary ball boy on Feb. 28 when the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Charlotte Hornets at the Staples Center.
Paz is a high school junior at the Alliance Patti & Peter Neuwirth Leadership Academy, one of 10 schools partnering with California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) MSA program, a student success initiative focused on improving the educational outcomes of men of color at CSUDH—like Head—who in turn work off campus as student mentors.
“Winning the essay contest was kind of surprising for me. I mean, to win out of all the schools that participated, I thought, ‘How could I have been chosen?” said Paz, a Los Angeles resident. “It was fun. I was part of the team’s practice before the game, rebounding balls for them. I really liked being on the court, but it was scary at times because I didn’t want to get in their way. Some of the players came and shook my hand, but they were pretty busy, and I didn’t want to bug them.”
During halftime, Paz was recognized on court for his achievement, and he and the other essay contest winners received a Lakers plaque. He also posed for photographs; including with the Laker Girls. The Lakers also gave more than 50 tickets for other MSA students and their shaperones to attend the game.
“I felt like a proud big brother after I heard Jovany won. What sticks out about Jovany is his up-beat personality. He seems open and free—things just seem to flow to him,” said Head. “This is Jovany’s second year in the MSA program, so he’s one of my elders now. The MSA is all about mentoring, and encouraging our students to mentor others, which Jovany does.”
Head’s essay assignment for his class of nearly 25 high school students to focus on the importance of mentoring others, specific ways the MSA has helped them excel, and a person who had been an important mentor in their lives. Jovany chose his father.
Head knows he has made “good strides” in helping the students he teaches and mentors reach their potential.
“They’ve always had it inside of them—potential to excel. It’s just a matter of bringing it out,” he said.
Paz enjoys Head’s teaching style, and sees him as another important mentor making an impact on his life.
“He puts a lot of feeling into teaching, which really gets the students to interact,” said Paz. “He always includes everyone. He’s really good at that. He has made me want to go to college even more.”