November 14, 2017
Meet Dwayne Cumberbatch, Class of ’97
Founder and Executive Director of
Alpha II Omega Youth Services
Time and time again we are reminded of the impact that education and school experiences play in the development of our students and the paths they take after leaving the halls of MLS. Dwayne was an athlete during his school years, playing on the basketball and track teams. He says that his teachers and coaches helped guide him in the direction he would take in his life and career. Following graduation, he spent nine years working at a Middle School in Jamaica where he found his “passion and purpose,” working with the youth. After completing his degree at Hofstra University, he had the tools to found his nonprofit organization which provides sports, academic intervention, and empowerment programs for Middle School and High School Students. You can find him at MLS during his annual summer and winter basketball programs.
Q: Tell us about your basketball program at MLS.
Dwayne: “Chris Brown and I started the program four years ago, holding a 4-week program in the summer and a 1-week program in the winter. We gear our program towards girls and boys from ages 6-14. When we created the program, it was a skills camp that attracted a lot of new kids. Our goal was for families to become more acquainted with our school and our kids through basketball. Many of our kids have become MLS students after participating in the program. We have over 100 kids every summer, many of whom went on to play for the MLS team during the year and some students have become counselors for the camp. It is a great program that I am so glad to bring to MLS.”
Q: Dwayne, who was your favorite teacher at MLS?
Dwayne: “One of my favorite things about MLS is that I can still visit years later, and Mr. Regan and Ms. Boyle, and other teachers still remember my name and face. This kind of relationship is something you can’t always get at bigger schools. Mr. Zuffer was my Freshman study hall teacher and the reason he was so important was because he taught me how to play chess. We would have these really interesting conversations about race – and coming from a school and area that was predominantly African American – it was the first time I was surrounded by so many cultures. The development that I got at just 13 years old from these “life conversations” helped me to grow considerably.” He laughed and added, “and I got really good at chess.” Mr. Johnson, who was his basketball coach, also played a big role in his time at MLS. “He pushed me. I wasn’t the fastest or the best athlete – I was okay. He gave me so many opportunities when I was here and he even awarded me with two coaches awards, showing how much he valued my maturity.” Dwayne also remembered Pastor Terence Weber, and his inspirational advice in religion class. “He consistently instilled jewels about how to approach work. He would say that a carpenter doesn’t go to work without his tools. As a kid you think, whatever. But those things stick with you in your life.”
Q: What are your favorite memories from your time at MLS?
Dwayne: “Senior year – it was our final basketball home game and I remember scoring the first two baskets. At the time I wasn’t getting a lot of playing time. But, it was the first time I experienced such a joy of representing the school. Basketball was so big to me, and the feeling of getting those baskets was indescribable.” Dwayne also remembered a time when the team had a game where he knew that he would get a lot of playing time. He had gotten sick during the day but wanted to play so badly, so he didn’t tell anyone he was sick. Overall, “I loved how comfortable I was being here – there was never a time when it didn’t feel like another home.”
Q: Have you stayed in touch with other alumni?
Dwayne: “Oh yes! I am still friends with my classmates from Middle School to this day. There was a bond between students who were taking the bus and train to school and back every day which actually helped us to connect at MLS.”
Q: Why is MLS the “Small School. Smart Choice.”?
Dwayne: “There is an attention to detail here. As an educator I know the value that one places on detail is best given to students in a small setting. When you have an environment where they can ask questions, get to know people, and have people get to know you – it really enhances the experience. This experience can get lost in bigger schools. The investment students make to be in this small setting really pays off in their development as a student and in the decisions they make decisions long after MLS.”
Q: What advice do you have for our current students?
Dwayne: “Value every moment at MLS because high school goes extremely fast. Think before you act and be clear in the direction you want to go in. Start thinking now about that direction even though you don’t have to know the endpoint right now. Make sure you take advantage of all of the opportunities here to learn what you love.”
Q: What is some advice you have for students applying to college?
Dwayne: “First, don’t be intimidated by the school you think may not accept you – if you want to go to Harvard, apply! Next, don’t feel pressured to lock yourself into a major. It is okay to give yourself some time to develop and figure it out. College is about finding what you like best and what you are good at.”
Q: Why would you recommend attending MLS to a family looking for a new school?
Dwayne: “MLS has everything students need to get to the next level. After your four years here, students are very well prepared to succeed, because they have the opportunities to do so much here – and they will be prepared citizens as well.”
Dwayne says he is proud of his relationship with MLS as an alumnus and business person. “I am happy I have been able to enrich their program and excited to continue to do this.”
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