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NEW YORK (PIX11) — One local organization is helping student athletes on and off the track.

“20 years into this now, we’ve really developed the Armory into a campus,” Dr. Norbert Sander, founding president of the Armory, said. “[It’s] a beautiful campus with a spectacular sports facility.”

The New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory is located in Washington Heights. It holds hundreds of event each year featuring some of the best athletes at every level from around the country.

“But those aren’t the success stories,” Dr. Sander explained. “The success stories are the regular kids who come here, who run, who go on in their own quiet way and become successful.”

“Typically we draw from the city’s most high needs schools” Aliann Pompey, Director of Operations for Armory College Prep and four-time Olympian said. “We want for our students to have as many options possible, not just on the track but off the track as well.”

One of those opportunities is the Armory’s College Prep program.

“This is a very unique program in the sense that we guide the kids through every aspect of their academic experience outside of school,” Mary Synek, Director of the Writing Institute described.

The program is free and open to student-athletes who train and compete at the Armory.

“The armory seems like a second home,” Kenisha Pugh, senior student-athlete said. “I was diagnosed dyslexic in second grade, and I currently still have it.”

“I joined Armory college preparatory over the summer. And it helped me because it gave me mentors and counselors to get me focus on how to apply for college”

One of her mentors is Mary Rose Synek, who helped her on her college application.

“When we began working on the personal statement, it was a little frustrating because it did take a lot of extra time to focus on what she wanted to say and what was the best way to convey her story,” Synek explained.
“The incredible thing about Kenisha is she does not give up.”

Now Kenisha is getting ready to graduate high school and go to college. She has received acceptance letters from several different schools and is currently deciding where she wants to go.

Kenisha is just one of about 175 student-athletes currently taking advantage of the program. It is open to juniors and seniors.

“Running, it just makes me want to work harder and be better and what I do,” Powell Deslandes, junior student-athlete said. “ And I put that with my school work and furthering myself better into going into college.”

But, it’s not just opportunities this program provides that impacts the community so much, it’s the success of it.

“We’ve been extremely successful,” Clayton Harding, Director of Armory College Prep explained. “About 95 percent of our students have gone onto college and they come from undeserved communities and high schools where the average is much more like 30-40%.”

The focus it takes to decide to spend the time at the Armory, working on school and preparing for college makes each one of these kids special.

“Each of their journeys is very different, each of their paths towards success is different, their definition of success is different,” Pompey described. “The program allows for that individuality, it allows us to take the students wherever they are and say this is where you could be and for the students that stick with it, that’s really inspiring.”

For more information on the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory visit