Celebrating second chances during March Madness.

March brings many things including spring and March Madness. This year's New York Life title sponsorship of the ACC basketball tournament at Barclays Center in Brooklyn was about more than basketball. As part of New York Life’s efforts to give back to the community, the Foundation made a $25,000 contribution to Good Shepherd Services, a multi-service organization with programs for children, youth and families in Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Good Shepherd, in partnership with the Department of Education, runs two “second chance” high schools for students who struggled at their previous high school. Just as New York Life seeks to help customers be “good at life,” Good Shepherd Services helps its students to be “good at school,” providing the necessary support to get kids back on track to graduate from high school.

The New York Life Foundation has partnered with Good Shepherd since 2006, dedicating over $1.6 mllion to support their after-school programs for middle school students. This year, the Foundation hosted a special session for Good Shepherd high schoolers at Barclays with Cory Alexander, NBA veteran and current ESPN commentator. Alexander offered motivation and perspective to the students based on his own life and career trajectory.

During the ACC semi-final game, a student – Isavior Coombs – from Good Shepherd’s South Brooklyn Community High School (SBCHS) was selected to make a half-court shot to “win” $25,000 for the organization. After not doing well in his previous school, Isavior came to SBCHS and blossomed. He immediately tried out for and made the basketball team, which proceeded to win the championship in the Multiple Pathways B Division. Throughout his first year at SBCHS he attended school regularly and performed better in school than he had in a long time.

After the basketball season, Isavior started an internship at the Miccio Community Center, located in Red Hook Brooklyn, working with 4th and 5th graders. Isavior helps with the center’s basketball program and is a positive role model for children who look up to him. Upon graduation, Isavior plans on attending college and continuing to play basketball. One of the aspects he feels contributes to his success is the connection he has with the adults at the school - his coach, counselors, and teachers – who provide the support that allows him to succeed.

While Isavior didn’t make the half-court shot (although he came close), he is winning at the game of life because he is now on track to graduate high school. Life as we know it doesn’t always go according to our original plan, but it's important to keep trying and get back-up when we fail. A rebound isn't a bad thing; it’s a second chance to achieve a slam dunk.