Juno Simmons grew up in Rochester’s 19th ward and, at the young age of 6, knew that Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester would serve as a foundation for his future. When asked to remember his favorite programs, he vividly recalled one experience in particular that would end up setting him on the track to success. In fifth grade, Juno played on the Club’s basketball team “The Running Rebels,” which was coached by Reggie Smith, fitness coordinator at Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester, as part of a Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) league. The team traveled to Georgetown University and had the opportunity to meet the collegiate players and play on the Hoyas’ basketball court. It was then Juno said he was exposed to what college could be and knew higher education was in his future.
Sports were a significant part of Juno’s time at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester. He played soccer and baseball, but his love of basketball would again offer him a life-changing opportunity. The Club had developed a partnership with Allendale Columbia, a college-preparatory school in Rochester, involving a summer basketball camp. Members of the Club were able to participate in the camp and would be looked at as possible applicants for the school. After taking part in the basketball camp, Juno worked with his family and executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester Dwayne Mahoney to apply to Allendale Columbia. This was ultimately a decision that would help pave the way for Juno’s future.
“During my time at Allendale I began to question if it was really for me,” said Juno. “But Boys & Girls Clubs helped me see the vision and acted as a pillar of support. Similar to the Club, Allendale exposed me to things outside of my community.”
Juno graduated from Allendale in 2009 and went on to Chestnut Hill College for one year before transferring to the University of Albany. It was there that he majored in English and Sociology. During his time in Albany, Juno was supported by the Club by way of scholarships and always looked to his mentors for guidance. Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester taught him the importance of relationships, giving back and uplifting youth – lessons he continued to use throughout his college career and still today.
After Albany, Juno followed his passion of working with youth and enrolled in Teach for America, a two-year program that sent him to Houston, Texas where he taught third, fourth and fifth graders science and English Language Arts. His experience was eye-opening and he knew he wanted to further his education to, in turn, impact more youth.
“Boys & Girls Clubs instilled the love of academic competition in me,” Juno said.
Johns Hopkins University provided the perfect atmosphere for the level of competition Juno was striving for. While earning a dual Master’s degree in Education Administration and Supervision and Leadership in Technology, Juno worked on staff for Teach for America Baltimore and started his own nonprofit centered around empowering youth.
During his time in Baltimore, Juno was being pursued by Google. After three years of turning them down, he decided to take the top company up on its offer and show the youth he was working so closely with that they too could work for such an elite employer. For the last year and a half, Juno has been working at Google focusing on its Diversity and Inclusivity effort. In his spare time, he continues to give back as the newest and youngest IDEA Charter School Network advisory board member.
Juno visited the Club at the end of September and was pleased to see all of the changes to the building and the new program spaces. “The Club gives our kids access – access to the outside world, access to greater education, access to success – access they may otherwise not have. The new additions to the building – the technology center, recording studio, art studio and more – are preparing them to be 21st century thinkers and closing the educational achievement gap.”
“It’s our responsibility to pave the way for our youth,” Juno said.