Mentee Profile: Danny Hoffman
Danny Hoffman moved with his family from Brighton to Needham in 2005, one week before he entered freshman year at the high school. Danny immediately felt out of place in Needham. His family didn’t fit the economic norm, and he didn’t feel prepared for the high expectations and academic rigor of Needham High School. For instance the books assigned in freshman English represented a huge leap from the work assigned in his 8th grade classroom in Boston. In fact, Danny was not accustomed to any homework, and felt totally unprepared for the hours of nightly homework assigned in Needham. To make matters worse, Danny didn’t know a soul in his new town. “It was like I was starting over,” he says.
Fortunately, Danny’s connection with a caring teacher-mentor helped him meet the challenges of high school and what lay beyond. In freshman year, Danny signed up for Mr. Cournoyer’s after-school basketball club. “Mr. C was a great guy to be around. He was always fun,” recalls Danny, who says their relationship grew close on the basketball court, where they would hang out for hours after school. At the close of his junior year, Danny says he was doing well “but not spectacularly” in school. He had a spotty attendance record, and applied himself only when he felt like it. He was invited to join the mentoring program, and Mr. C. was a natural choice for a mentor. “He was a great example. He helped me become efficient: I’d get my schoolwork done, then I’d get to play basketball with him.”
Danny’s goal was to be the first person in his immediate family to attend college. His parents, a hairdresser and a construction worker, lacked the experience to guide Danny through the college admissions process, and Mr. C. stepped in. He helped Danny select teachers to write recommendations, reminded him of deadlines, and made sure he completed all the necessary tasks. As a result, he achieved his goal: Danny enrolled at the University of Tampa in Florida.
When asked to describe the ideal qualities in a mentor, Danny replied, “Be a duplicate of Mr. C.! Know how to communicate with kids. A mentor can’t come off as bossing us around. He’s got to be open to our opinions, and honestly become a friend.”
Danny Hoffman at a Glance
Impact of the Mentoring Program
“If not for my mentor, it’s a good possibility that I wouldn’t even have gone to college.”
Qualities He Respected in His Mentor
“He always carries himself well, he never gets angry, he’s always real polite, always in a joking-around mood. He just creates a great atmosphere to be around. He would always do work before play -- and now I’m the same: I get my work done first.”