Alora & Malecka

When Malecka and Alora were first matched in 2014, there was an instant connection; They were both black women, both born and raised in Brooklyn, both very active in their respective church communities, and the list went on.

Because they connected so quickly at the start of their relationship, Malecka was very open and honest about her goals: She wanted to play basketball, first in college and then professionally. When she learned this, Alora immediately knew she should connect Malecka with her cousin who plays professional basketball. Right away they started to strategize on how to best set up Malecka for a successful career.

That strategy included visits to local schools, and Alora took her mentee on a few campus tours. They met with basketball coaches and players, and brought both of their families along as well. Their trips usually ended with family dinners together. Everything was looking up for Malecka as she and her mentor bonded and took steps toward her professional success.

But then, after graduating high school, Malecka did not attend college. Despite their hard work and planning, unforeseen obstacles prevented her from enrolling.

“She had an immense amount of other things going on,” recalls Alora. “I understood that college wasn’t the most important thing for her right then.”

Malecka may not have been in college, but Alora was still her mentor. She continued to support Malecka all year long by helping her find internships and part-time jobs. “I realized that even though our goal was college, we’d have to put that on the back burner and focus on other things.” Together, they hit the streets and applied for more than 20 jobs together, filling out applications and preparing for interviews. “I realized she just needed someone to talk to, so I lent that ear. She was going through things that no 18-year old should have to go through, so I was just there for her emotionally.”

Throughout that year, Alora would continue to check in with Malecka to make sure she was doing alright. Then one day, Malecka reached out to Alora and asked that they review her class schedule together.

“I was like ‘Class schedule? What class are you taking?’” It turns out that Malecka had applied to, was accepted, and enrolled at college on her own! She took the plan that she and her mentor had crafted together and executed it by herself. Not only that, but she became a mentor herself in the process. Malecka had a friend who was feeling too nervous and uncomfortable to go to college. To encourage her friend, Malecka made a deal: “If you do it, I’ll do it, too.” This past fall, Malecka and her friend enrolled together at Medgar Evers College.

Alora is so happy for her mentee. “At first, I was like ‘OMG, she doesn’t need me anymore, haha!” That isn’t entirely true of course; Alora and Malecka are still planning and strategizing together. They’re now working on improving her GPA, to ensure that she stays on the basketball team, which is a priority for Malecka. Her hard work is certainly paying off—she has already been voted team MVP twice, and was selected to play basketball in Italy this summer.

No matter what happens next for Malecka, her biggest fan will be there cheering her on. Just like in high school, Alora still attends as many of her mentee’s basketball games as she can!