James Milan entered foster care at age 4. “My childhood wasn’t the greatest,” he says wryly. “I was trying to figure out why my mother didn’t want me, why my father wasn’t there.” In and out of foster care homes and group homes, he found the Claremont Neighborhood Center in the Bronx, N.Y., — and now works as a senior counselor there with kids ages 5 through 13.
Milan describes the neighborhood center as a safe space for kids, with movie nights, late-night gym access, cooking and more. “There’s so much around them that’s not positive … I feel like I’ve gotta be a role model, because if you look around, especially in our neighborhood, there are not a lot of role models.”
“He’s a pretty cool guy,” say the kids at Claremont Neighborhood Center, where Milan works as a senior counselor. “If you hang with James, you famous for the rest of the day.”
“I had seen something that maybe other people didn’t. They might have saw a smart alecky kid, a kid that might not have seemed like he was going anywhere. Maybe a kid that looked like he didn’t have any real dreams. But that’s not what I saw. I saw something that was innate. He said he liked kids … I have a lot of hopes for him. A lot of plans.” — Abraham Jones, executive director of Claremont Neighborhood Centers, Inc. and James’ father-figure.
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