Read some of Anthony Byers' inspiring message from the Golf Classic:
I went to The Master's School in seventh grade. I was uncomfortable at first because I was still figuring it out. My family was a low-income family and struggling to get by. At the end of eighth grade, I was going to go back to Bloomfield Public because it had gotten expensive for my family. A mentor/coach came to my house just to speak about how special the school environment was. It meant so much to him. I had never had a teacher care enough for me that they would come to my home. He sat down with my family and said, “Hey, we want him here. And there's no guarantee that you don't fall back into the same situations that, you know, challenged you before if you leave.” He prayed with my family and my mom was sold at that point. I was very upset at the time, but in hindsight, it made all the difference for the rest of my life.
So fast forward, I played four years of varsity basketball. I was captain of the team for three years. I made lifelong friendships. My best friends to this day are all folks that I've met at Master’s. I went to UConn and graduated with a degree in economics. I had my sites set on working at The Hartford. But I got the opportunity to coach back at Master’s. I felt it kind of just boiling in my spirit that I had this amazing opportunity. I wanted to give back in some way, shape or form. I had no idea that I would enjoy getting the opportunity to be back on campus. Not just the nostalgia around being on campus, but sharing my experiences with other students to help them along.
I am now Executive Director of a nonprofit organization in Hartford, called Hartford Youth Scholars. I have been there for 15 years. We are a college persistence organization focused on not only seeing students like me, from Hartford, get to college, but also graduate from college by providing them equitable educational opportunity. Like the opportunity I was so fortunate to receive while I was at The Master's School by the faculty members that I got to connect with. That's what Master’s did for me. It changed the trajectory of my entire life. And by having the opportunity to do this, I am now able to impact the lives of so many others. We have 300 students that we work with at Hartford Youth Scholars. Eighty percent of the students that go through my program also graduate college within six years. You compare that to the national average – 11% of low-income, first generation students across the nation graduate college within six years.
What is our mission? It is not only that you go to college and graduate, but it's that you go and then you give back. You share that information with somebody else. You help this place be better than what the folks that come before you had. And I must lead by example. So, I'm back here at The Master’s School, just trying to find ways to serve.
My mom passed away back in 2018 to pancreatic cancer. She was always my rock. I remember vividly going to her gravesite one day and I just felt lost. Things seemed hard. I was struggling with my identity and my purpose. I knelt at her grave, I balled, I prayed, I threw up my hands, and I said, “God, tell me what am I supposed to be doing?” He told me, “I am living in you. You are living in your purpose.” What that did for me was it allowed for me to step boldly into spaces where I am helping, supporting and providing opportunities for others. So when I got the opportunity to come back to The Master’s School, sit on the Board and be a part of the solution for the future of The Master’s School, I did so with a humble spirit, ready to roll up my sleeves and be a part of the solution.
Support of The Master’s School isn’t just about what the school looks like it or its existence – it's about the impact that the school is having on the students. Once they leave that campus, it's a lasting impact – it's contagious and it's tangible. You can feel it. You can see it. That's the beauty of The Master’s School.