The University of New Orleans Department of Athletics has entered into a partnership with Son of a Saint, an organization devoted to enhancing the lives of fatherless boys.
Founded by UNO alumnus Bivian "Sonny" Lee, III, who also serves as the organization's president, Son of a Saint provides boys whose fathers are absent with mentorship, emotional support, development of life skills, exposure to constructive experiences and formation of positive, lasting peer-to- peer relationships.
Through the collaboration, UNO student-athletes will develop skills to serve as mentors to some of 45 boys involved in the program. They will team with Son of Saint mentees as well as the organization’s adult mentors up for activities designed to broaden the boys’ experiences while giving UNO’s student-athletes their own opportunities to bond with community role models.
"We are excited to launch this new community partnership with Sonny and Son of a Saint," New Orleans Director of Athletics Derek Morel said. "Sonny and his mentors have given their time and resources to positively impact the lives of the young people in the program. We are eager to work in close collaboration with him to enhance his efforts and make a difference in our community through this joint initiative."
Established on Jan. 1, 2011, Son of a Saint gets its origins from its creator as Lee's father, Bivian Lee, Jr., was a defensive back for the New Orleans Saints from 1971-75, died at age 36 after suffering a heart attack in 1984 and left behind a wife, a five-year old daughter, Tamica, and a three-year old son, Sonny.
As an adult, the younger Lee came to understand the struggles and challenges his mother faced and gained an appreciation for the opportunities he was afforded as a child – opportunities the average youth would not. From access to psychiatrists, to addressing anger issues associated with not having his father in his life, to an ability to play several sports leagues and enjoy the relationships he was able to build with teammates and coaches, Lee was convinced that the array of opportunities made him who he is today – an educated professional who is a leader in the community.
The program is named in honor of his late father and single mother with a goal of
"paying it forward" and replicating his own experience for a special group of fatherless
young males in the community.
Collaborative activities planned include a poetry workshop with the men's basketball team, cooking classes with the volleyball team, as well as tutoring and mentorship programs. In addition, the Privateer student-athletes, coaches and staff will participate in various other educational, recreational, experiential, and service opportunities with the Son of a Saint membership.
The mutually beneficial relationship will personify the department's mission to develop well-rounded, responsible, high-character individuals who are leaders within the community. It will also provide a network of professionals for UNO's student-athletes as they transition from college into careers.
"We couldn't be more excited and thankful for this great partnership with UNO," Lee added. "We have special ties to the University of New Orleans and believe it is a natural fit for us. Partnering with UNO will show the young boys and men what university life is like so they get comfortable with the concept of attending college and understanding that it is possible for each of them to do so.
"We see UNO student-athletes as role models and mentors to our young boys and men, and we see our Son of a Saint mentors as mentors to the student-athletes. It is a mutually-beneficial relationship built for success that far exceeds the obvious. Most of our boys love sports and for them to be able to see college level athletes is a dream come true. We are also excited about UNO's international students from around the world and outside of Louisiana. This will expose our mentees to various cultures and people."
For additional information on the Son of a Saint, as well as ways to volunteer and donate to the cause, UNO fans and concerned citizens are encouraged to visit their website at www.SonofaSaint.org.