Joel Medina

There’s an instant bond formed on the sports field. This is true even for the members of Bassick High’s football team. The other teams had an advantage last season – more seniors, more experienced players. Bassick did not win a single game. It’s disappointing, Joel Medina says, but at least they remained a team. In the off-season, Joel is part of a second team – buildOn – where he is a key player. “It’s not like I’m a jock or anything,” he says laughing. “I can care about sports and care about other people.”

Joel joined buildOn during his junior year, casually attending service projects until he signed up for an internship with the YMCA.

That summer he met Angel. Angel was not like the other kids. She was a lot like Joel – quiet and calm. In between talent shows, movie trips and water balloon fights, the two developed a special bond.

One day that summer, Angel told Joel that he was something of a dad to her. As is the youngest of four kids in his family, Joel had never been anyone’s older brother before, let alone served as a father figure.

He had been lucky to have three older siblings who constantly supported and mentored him as he was growing up. For example, at the start of his freshman year, Joel was attending the magnet program at Central High School. The program is academically rigorous and difficult to get into, but Joel and thinks that the support of his siblings helped push him to join. When he found that the program was not the right fit, Joel transferred to Bassick later that year.

Despite the change, his family did not give up on him and continued to support him to achieve in school.

Upon meeting Angel, Joel was realized that so many kids do not have that sort of support at home that he was used to. He always had parents and older siblings to watch out for him, but that was not the case for Angel. He wants to make sure that other young people can have a similar experience to what he had growing up.

“Some kids don’t have that support system and I feel like it’s really needed. They don’t have anybody, they are lonely and they don’t have anyone to talk to or to express themselves to,” he says. “Their surroundings might not be the best, but I know that we can set them straight and tell them everything is going to be positive.”

He’s felt that loneliness at times too. Even when you have older siblings to guide you, they are not around as much as you grow older.

Because of this, Joel depends a lot on t he “family” that he has found through buildOn. He has worked hard to craft his own path, and is thankful for friends like Rooben, Shamel and Eddie for helping him to break through his shell. He is fairly certain that he would not have been involved with buildOn if he did not attend service projects with his friends.

Joel has not seen Angel since the summer program but often wonders how she is. It can be hard to do service when you know you might never see that person again, but he thinks of Angel often and credits her for helping him to understand the importance of supporting others in need, and working together to improve your community.