The local chapter, celebrating 100 years of serving at-risk youth in the Philadelphia area, took the opportunity to salute Comcast NBCUniversal for our workplace mentoring program, named Beyond School Walls. "This award is a testament to Comcast employees’ passion for giving back," Brian said. "And I am proud to accept this honor on behalf of the hundreds of employees who serve as Big Brothers and Big Sisters nationwide." Below is the story of one of those employees.
Louis Daleandro first heard about Beyond School Walls in the summer of 2013 after seeing a video about the program – now offered at 16 Comcast offices nationwide – on the company’s employee website. "The video was about a match here at HQ," recalls Louis, a Comcast Business project manager. "I didn’t know Comcast offered a workplace mentoring program, but I thought it sounded pretty cool." Then, during Comcast’s United Way campaign a few months later, Louis saw another video, this one about a coworker he knows who volunteers as a Big – because he used to be a Little Brother himself. "It made me think, ‘I’d like to be that someone for a kid who needs it.’"
That desire came from a personal place. Growing up in Ridley, a working-class suburb of Philadelphia, Louis was surrounded by family but mostly alone at home. "My grandparents and aunts and uncles all lived within a three-block radius of us, but my parents divorced when I was young and they both worked really long hours. Even though we had family nearby, my brother and I were pretty much latch-key kids."
Louis doesn’t remember anyone in his family encouraging him to go to college, let alone talking about it. "It didn’t seem like an option because no one brought it up," he says. So in eleventh grade, Louis applied for delayed entry to the U.S. Navy. He was interested in culinary arts and thought he could be a cook in the service.
Before long, Louis qualified for submarine school, which spurred his interest in technology and engineering. "I was still a really good cook, but submarine school opened my eyes to a whole new world." After four years of active duty, Louis left the Navy in 1996 and turned that world into a new career path.
"I spent a lot of time in automotive electronics and then cell phone repair," he says. "I knew I needed to go back to school, so I used my GI Bill to get a degree in computer technology." After working in voice data and business services for a few years, Louis was hired at Comcast.
"Serving my country was an honor," says Louis, who as a reservist was deployed overseas in 2003 during the Iraq War. At Comcast, he went on to help found the company’s Employee Resource Group for veterans. "But I think I could have benefited from more guidance growing up. Maybe I wouldn’t have joined the Navy so young, or I would have stayed in the service longer, or picked a career path earlier. What I needed growing up was direction, and that’s what I wanted to give a Little Brother – encouragement to help him make good decisions and be successful."
Louis was matched with Nathaniel, a fourth grader at Potter-Thomas Elementary School, a public school in North Philadelphia, one of the city’s underserved sections. Every two weeks throughout the school year, Nathaniel and other Littles take a school bus to Comcast Center to meet their Comcast employee Bigs.
Today Nathaniel is in the sixth grade, and a foot taller. "He spends a lot of time inside his house playing Xbox because it’s not safe for him to be outside in his neighborhood alone," Louis says. "That’s why his visits here mean so much to him."
Comcast’s Beyond School Walls program has proven to have a positive impact on participating Littles, increasing their chances of staying in school and leading to improved grades. Louis remembers when Nathaniel received a bad grade in math earlier this year. "We talked through it and came up with ways he could improve," Louis says. "The next time we met, he was so excited to tell me that he’d worked really hard and pulled his math score up two full grades." That moment had a big impact on their relationship. "I realized how much it means to Nathaniel to have someone care about how he’s doing," Louis says.
This year, Louis and Nathaniel are starting to talk about the future. "He asks me about my job and I ask him about his interests," Louis says. "And he definitely knows that college is an option for him."