exemplifies value of mentoring
Ida Lee Wootten
life-saving potential is obvious to Lavar Wagner as he remembers
the friends he grew up with in Bedford-Stuyvesent, the poverty-stricken
area of Brooklyn that is one of the most danger- ous in New York
City. None of them completed or even attended college; many are
dealing drugs, and all still walk the neighborhood streets, at
risk of being robbed or killed daily.
who graduates this week from the McIntire
School of Commerce, made a new life for himself. Thanks to
a good job and a hefty signing bonus, he also plans to give a
new life to his single mother, his sister and her 3-year-old daughter
when he pays for their move out of their overcrowded apartment
in Bedford-Stuyvesent to a safer neighborhood.
now 21, was able to visualize a world outside the slums because
a mentor from the Morgan Stanley investment firm (now Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter) encouraged him to consider college and the business
field. As part of the mentoring program, Wagner spent time in
an office, where he saw the stimulating mix of computers and business.
"I discovered I had a natural passion for technology and
the business world," he said.
mentor assisted him in selecting college preparatory courses,
studying for the Scholastic Aptitude Tests and instilling in him
the will to succeed. After graduating as the valedictorian of
his class at Chelsea High School in New York City in 1996, Wagner
entered U.Va. with a variety of scholarships and financial aid
packages and pursued a double major in management and management
Although he doesn't feel safe in his old neighborhood -- someone
recently pulled a gun on him in his mother's apartment building
-- Wagner has made a point of returning to his high school to
preach the value of higher education. He has also mentored other
students through U.Va.'s Peer Advisors Program, which matches
upperclass minority students to new minority students. In addition
to advising as many as six students a year through that program,
he has served as a mentor every Wednesday at Fifeville's Youth
Alive Center, a service project of his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi.
He was also a member of the resident staff of Gooch dormitory,
where he interacted with dozens of students daily.
feel it's important to give something back, both to the University
community and to my hometown. I hope I show students that you
can face obstacles and still persevere," he said.
has shown me that anyone from anywhere can make it and succeed
at anything they put their mind to," said U.Va. student Joe
Berhan, a psychology major who regards Wagner as his role model.
"I lived with Lavar during our second and third years, and
I do not know of anybody who could lock themselves in their rooms
and work all Friday and Saturday nights like he did."
Wagner, who has served as president of his fraternity chapter
and the Black Commerce Student Network, one course at U.Va. stands
out as his favorite. "Multicultural Education," taught
by Curry School
associate professor Robert Covert, "should be required for
every student," he said. "It takes aspects of every
individual's life and brings them out into the open. Such an experience
fosters better communication and trust. It promotes bonding. I
want to carry that approach with me into the corporate world."
entertained several job offers before choosing a position in information
technology consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York
City. Despite the fact that Wagner won't start until August, his
mother, a telephone operator, has begun researching new homes
in better sections of Brooklyn or Queens.
Wagner, who one day hopes to be the head of his own firm, says
he has two central goals after moving his family to a safer place.
"I want to feel comfortable financially, and I don't want
to feel like I have to watch my back -- to hustle -- all the time.
I want to be at peace."
press release on Graduate
Exemplifies Value of Mentoring