Much of the world just experienced a spring season like no other following the arrival COVID-19 and the subsequent wreckage. For high school seniors, it was anything but what they expected their senior experience to be like.
Traditionally, this would be the time of year where the REACH Youth Scholarship Program holds a breakfast event to award student athletes with scholarships for overcoming adversity through their courage and hard work. REACH, established by the San Jose Sports Authority, recognizes young athletes from 47 South Bay high schools at the breakfast that has been held for 24 years. But due to COVID-19 concerns, it has been canceled this year.
Lynbrook High School’s Jonathan Leslie is the epitome of the kind of student REACH wants to help. Born to a mother who used methamphetamines while she was pregnant, Jonathan went through twelve homes in the foster care system. He was ultimately adopted by Melissa Leslie, one of his foster mothers, and her husband, John. They’re now the parents of five.
“My mom really helped me with that, shaping me into the person that I am today,” Leslie said. “Whenever I get like mad for doing the chores, I just get like, I wouldn’t be here right now if it weren’t for my mom.
“A little chore, it’s like, I got this. Let’s do this.”
Jonathan Leslie, Lynbrook High School.
Silver Creek High School’s Molly Erezo knows something about overcoming adversity as well. Molly lost her father to cancer, an event that triggered drug abuse by her mother. After spending a year with one sister in foster care, she’s been reunited with older sisters, who now care for the whole family.
“Basketball allowed me to clear my mind,” Erezo said. “Whatever I was feeling outside of basketball, I made sure not to bring it into basketball. Being an athlete has helped me keep my grades up as well.”
Some of the Bay Area’s best-known athletes have lent their support to REACH. Ronnie Lott and Jim Plunket have been there since day one.
“This is a moment, and now what do you do with it,” Lott said. “Hopefully we’re going to see a lot of kids take what they’ve learned, and not necessarily quit, but get better. We have to find a way to not only let them know, but their families know that we care about you.”
The young athletes couldn’t all meet this year for their annual breakfast, but the 47 seniors honored this year will be celebrated on a program that will air multiple times on NBC Sports Bay Area.
Some of the video clips used for this story originated from NBC Sports Bay Area.