Lorenzo Bernardez Jr. grew up in the rough streets of the South Bronx, NY. He had to grow up faster than the average kid due to his environment but quickly learned how to adapt. He told us what it was like growing up in the South Bronx, how he didn’t let the violent environment affect him negatively, and details about his non-profit, Slice of Excellence, where kids trade report cards for pizza.
Being Unpopular in the South Bronx
Growing up in the South Bronx, NY is about as tough as it gets in the United States. How does someone make it out of one of the poorest districts in the U.S? As Lorenzo explains, you have to go against the status quo, “You have to be unpopular. The unpopular thing to do is go to school. The unpopular thing to do is respect your parents. The unpopular thing to do is your homework.” So Lorenzo went against the grain and became a good, well behaved student.
He found friends who felt the same way and started to gravitate toward sports. One sport in particular caught his attention, baseball. He got really good at it and eventually made it to pro-level learning a lot in the process, “baseball taught me that I could do anything that I'm willing to work hard for. I played in Austria professionally for two years for the Schwechat Blue Bats. In my two years I hit over .400 both seasons and won a championship my last year while hitting 15 home runs” he said.
Making The Difference With a Non-Profit
Fast forward to modern day and Lorenzo has become a teacher for inner city youth. One of the problems that he had to figure out occurred during the 2020 semester when his students would refuse to attend Zoom classes. It was at this time he came up with the idea for his non-profit, Slice of Excellence. “Starting off, my classes' grades were terrible, their attendance was low, every statistic in my classes were very low, so I knew something had to be done. After having a conversation with my girlfriend at dinner I told her I think I'm just going to offer them pizza. So the next day I tell them the highest test score Friday gets pizza. Friday came and it happened, I ordered this kid named Abel pizza and got it delivered to his house. It was a small gesture but it changed the whole morale of my class. Kids started showing up. My attendance went up, my grades, my reading levels, everything. It got more and more popular and through the grace of God, social media people took a liking to what I was doing and decided to donate. I turned Slice of Excellence into a 501c3 and now we get donations, and we do tons of work all over New York City” said Lorenzo.
Lorenzo's Advice for Kids
Not many come out of the situation Lorenzo was born into with such a positive mindset. The reason he was able to make it out is found in his definition of a FighterHeart athlete, “someone who’s resilient, displays perseverance, and is relentless in their pursuit of their dreams” he said. We left Lorenzo with one final question looking to see if he had any advice for kids who may be in a similar situation and his answer didn’t disappoint. “Nothing is going to be given to you. People are going to be snakes and do funny things to you, but you have to learn how to maneuver through. I think if I could give my younger self advice, it's just to continue to stay true to yourself and not let other people get to you. What motivates me every day is my journey and showing kids that everything is possible regardless of how you start” he said.