When the college year comes to a close each May, hundreds — what are we thinking? — millions of college students, finally free of papers, studying and exams, can’t wait to hit the beach, visit a barbecue or three or maybe just use their newly-found freedom to catch up on a favorite hobby — sleeping in late.
But Andrew Curiel and Francisco “Neeko” Zeno, a pair of basketball players at the College of Mount St. Vincent, had other ideas of how to pass those summer days. Curiel, of the Bronx, and Zeno, out of Manhattan, decided they wanted to give back somehow, do something more productive than hitting the party circuit or the snooze button.
So the two, who grew up having their families pay their way through basketball camps as children, came up with the idea of creating a program for those who didn’t have the extra dollars to burn to send their child to camp. So the “Be You Stay True” program was born. And it appears to be off to a fine start.
“I started it last May with my roommate, Neeko,” said Curiel, the Dolphins 6-foot-5 sophomore forward. “We were thinking of things we could do over the summer because we didn’t have jobs at the time so we wanted to do something productive. We always remembered going to camps over the summer as kids, basketball camps. But we also remembered we had to pay for it or our mothers had to pay for it, so it was kind of tough for us to attend those annually. So we wanted to do at least do a one-day camp just to get started and just give chances to the kids that we didn’t have.”
The genesis of the name even has its own story.
“I went to St. Helena’s elementary school and Monsignor Scanlan High School and the pastor there has always been in my life since kindergarten, Father Derivan,” Curiel said. “He was always the guy watching over me. Anytime I would mess up at school or in basketball he would always tell me, ‘Be yourself. Don’t be a follower. Be who you are, Andrew.’ So he always said “Be You” so I had to make the name catchy so I added in the “Stay True.”