Worried. That’s how Joseph Bayardo’s parents felt last year when they moved across town and enrolled him at Memorial Prep. The seventh-grader arrived on campus with poor grades and an attitude to match.  And he wasn’t thrilled when his folks signed him up for the Y’s after-school care — until he figured out it was an avenue to play sports.  And that’s when things started to turn around.

“The program keeps him occupied and looking forward to things,” explains Joe’s mom, Kristal Monterrosa. “At PrimeTime, I know where my kids are, and I know they are safe. Joe has had the opportunity to explore different sports, and now he likes to volunteer, be helpful and motivate others.”

“This year has been better,” agrees Joe. His coach and youth leaders from the Y “always tell me to focus and follow my dreams.  They tell me: ‘Just do your best. Don’t mess up what you have. Stay on the right track.’”

Joe listened. In fact, he earned a 4.0 and was invited to spend spring break at the Y’s Camp Marston in Julian. “I’m a good student now,” he explains. “I made goals for myself.  I was PrimeTime student of the month — I think because I was helping out, being a leader and participating.  Camp Marston … I had never been to a place like that,” he says. “I tried archery and rock climbing. We played games, hiked and learned leadership skills.”

That trip, says Kristal, “is something we can’t give him. I am so glad he was able to have all that fun. The funding that makes it possible for these kids who wouldn’t be able to go — that they can have the opportunity to find fun things to do without TV or video games — it makes me feel happy inside.”

These days, Joe dreams about playing college sports and becoming a history teacher.  “I do see myself as a leader at school and at my house, too,” adding that his five younger siblings look up to him. “I help my parents figure out little problems. Sometimes,” he admits, “it’s a lot of pressure. ”

“He is the oldest, and it’s important for him to be a role model,” explains Kristal. “Whatever Joe gets involved in, the others want to follow.  That’s why it’s so important he stays on the right track. It’s a lot on his shoulders, but he’s a good candidate for that position. He just amazes me. He has had a rough life,” she admits. “But it is getting better — a lot better.”