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Promise Academy Charter Schools Grad Leverages Talent, Mentorship to Chart Career in Data Science

HCZ Promise Academy graduate Deondre Coston smiles in gymnasium.

When you’re figuring out your path in life, mentors can help point you in the right direction. But a mentor can make a bigger impact — even help you get you to your desired destination — when they’ve taken a similar path. 

Take Deondre Coston, a graduate of Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) Promise Academy Charter Schools, and his mentor, the late Troy Smith.

Deondre and Troy were both born and raised in Harlem. When they met, Deondre was bound for Hamilton College; Troy had graduated from the university. Both men found a home — Deondre, as a scholar, and Troy, as a professional — at Harlem Children’s Zone.

“It’s so important to have someone to lean on who understands where you’re coming from,” Deondre says.

Since leaving HCZ Promise Academy Charter Schools as a member of its first graduating class, Denondre has built a successful career as a data scientist and musician — a path forged with his talent, resilience, and the whole-hearted support of Troy and the HCZ community.

Here’s Deondre’s story:

Someone to look up to    

Deondre and Troy paths first crossed in HCZ’s K-12 Promise Academy Afterschool. At the time, Deondre was a high school senior at Promise; Troy was Managing Director of the aforementioned program.

Deondre says he “didn’t have many role models growing up.” But when he met Troy, he found someone to look up to.

“One of my great mentors has been Troy,” Deondre says. “I met him my senior year in high school. I knew I was going to Hamilton College. Troy also went to Hamilton. I got a lot of advice and support from him on what to expect.”

Building a bright future

That support didn’t stop with Troy: the entire HCZ Promise Academy Charter School community had Deondre’s back. As we do all our scholars, we connected him with the resources and opportunities to build a bright future. That includes our College Success Office (CSO), which helps scholars enroll in college and lead successful careers.

“Having a safe place and a community to come to — having people to look up to — played a big role in how I developed as a young man,” Deondre says.

Deondre left the Zone, but the Zone never left him

Deondre may have left HCZ to start his post-secondary journey. But HCZ never left him. Throughout Deondre’s journey, our community has stayed with him every step of the way.

“Without Troy and Promise Academy, the journey to where I’m at now would’ve been less attainable and a lot more difficult,” says the HCZ Promise Academy Charter Schools graduate. “The connections I created while I was here helped me get to where I am today.”