Graduate Success Story: Ronald Cordero, Drexel Liberty Scholar

Ron Cordero has always been a good student. In high school, he maintained a grade point average that ranged from 3.3 to 3.7. According to Ron, although his time management has not been one of his best qualities, he’s been consistent with his school work. “I try my best in every class,” he said. “I respect my teachers and they respect me.” In addition to attending Central High School where he was a successful student-athlete, he’s been working 11 hour shifts at a restaurant in downtown Philadelphia to make ends meet.

Ron’s the middle child in a family of five which includes his mom, dad, and two brothers. The Cordero Family are native to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. They moved to the United States when Ron was just 8 years old. With no beds available, they slept on the floor of a family member’s apartment in New York City before eventually moving to Philadelphia.

The recently graduated Beat The Streets Philadelphia student-athlete is a recipient of Drexel University’s Liberty Scholarship. For over ten years, the Drexel Liberty Scholars program has provided educational opportunities for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds. Designed to break down barriers to higher education, the scholarship program covers 100% of tuition and fees.

Ron admits that he never would have considered attending a prestigious school such as Drexel had he not been involved with Beat The Streets. “Coach Rick (Rick Mascino) told me about the Liberty Scholarship,” says Cordero. “One of my high school friends, Boobie (Abubakare Diaby) won the scholarship and wrestles for Drexel now.”

He became involved with Beat the Streets during his freshman year of high school. Boobie and another friend, Max Cramer introduced him to the program. Ron was a football player with aspirations to learn a new sport hoping to get in better shape. “I wanted to learn more about wrestling but when I got here, I realized that the Penn and Drexel wrestlers were here as well.” There was more to the program than just wrestling.

Ron first met Drexel student-athlete Evan Barczak. Described as “always positive and always helping”, Barczak would help instill qualities in Ron’s life that he hadn’t experienced before. “Evan was very prominent in my high school career,” says Cordero. Barczak, a recent graduate of Drexel and a multiple time NCAA National Qualifier, was a mentor and coach for Beat The Streets throughout his college career. 

As he learned more about the mentoring program at Beat The Streets, he eventually connected with Maximus Hale, a student-athlete at the University of Pennsylvania. They talked for over an hour the first time they met. “He’s a pretty nice dude,” says Cordero. They had a lot in common as Hale was also a two-sport athlete in high school. “I respect Max because he works hard. I got a little bit of me from Max.” Hale is an NCAA National Qualifier and USA Freestyle All-American. He’s been Ron’s mentor since they met.

Meeting weekly and sometimes more, Hale and Cordero spent a lot of time together on and off the mat. Max encouraged Ron through the scholarship application process helping with his time management skills. “I struggled with time management myself,” says Hale. “I think we helped each other during this process.”

A portion of the scholarship application involves writing an essay about something important to the applicant. Ron chose to write about food insecurity problems in the city. He realized, at a young age, how difficult it is to find healthy food options where he lives. As an athlete, this is important to Ron. “There’s a bunch of dollar stores with not very good food choices,” he says. “I did research and shared my thoughts. I hope that more people can learn about food deserts and other issues families face so we can help fix the problem.”

Ron realizes he now has an opportunity that many like him do not have. “With Beat The Streets, I’m fortunate to have an ‘anchor’ in my life,” says Cordero. “I know a lot of people don’t have this.” Ron will be attending Drexel University this Fall without the burden of school loans and tuition bills. He’s enrolled in the health and medical preparatory program at the university. Ron hopes to eventually get a degree in medicine. “I just like helping people,” he says.

“With Beat The Streets, I’m fortunate to have an ‘anchor’ in my life,”

If you would like to contribute to Beat the Streets and help to create more opportunities for kids like Ron, you can visit our Donate Now page here. If you would like to consider giving in other ways, either as a mentor or wrestling coach, please fill out one of our interest forms and we’ll be in touch!

Kaya Sement: BTSP Coach & Lead Mentor

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Kaya Sement

In this podcast episode, we get to speak with Kaya Sement, a Lead Mentor at BTS Philly. Kaya is a sophomore on the University of Pennsylvania wrestling team and brings tons of experience into the BTS room.

Kaya first became involved in Beat the Streets as the Lifting Coach for the student-athletes. He soon realized that being a coach meant more than just teaching the student-athletes technique.

“One day, one of the kids came up to me and said, ‘Can I ask you some advice?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, definitely.’ And we ended up talking for 15 minutes.”

But it didn’t end there.

“There was another kid standing behind him, watching over the conversation. And when our conversation wrapped up, he came over and he’s like, ‘Wait, you’re giving out advice? Can I ask you another question?’ I was like, ‘Yes, of course, I’m not just your lifting coach. I’m here for you guys.’ And we ended up talking again for 15 minutes. And just seeing how appreciative they were. And I feel like you can’t even put words into the face that he made. I thought about that a lot after that.”

When sidelined from wrestling with an injury that spring, Kaya thought about these experiences and decided to take his involvement with Beat the Streets to the next level. He became a Lead Mentor, which allowed him to have an even more significant impact on the student-athletes.

Beat the Streets Philly Executive Director James Mangan added, “He committed to be a coach and a mentor this past year and our kids really respected him and looked up to him and confided in him.”

For Kaya, though, working with the BTS athletes came naturally.
“The first thing I noticed was like, I don’t have to be a motivator there. Those kids are very self driven. They want to be there. Their parents aren’t making them. Nobody’s forcing them to be there. They’re self motivating. So they’re honestly some of the easiest kids to coach because you put up the program, give them some tips, and they work hard. So that’s definitely what I love.”

BTSP Podcast: Jordan Burroughs

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In this episode of the Beat the Streets Philadelphia Podcast, we welcome six-time World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Jordan Burroughs to the show. Jordan moved to Philadelphia in 2021 to become a member of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center. And it wasn’t long before he began helping out around BTS Philly.

Jordan helped by giving clinics to the BTSP student-athletes and speaking with them at the mentoring center. It’s an experience that, he explains, changed his perspective.

“I think what I’ve learned now is we all don’t have an equivalent playing field. And there are a lot of individuals who I see that can be phenomenal athletes, if given particular care and attention. And wrestling is such a great sport for human development.”

In Jordan’s eyes, it’s not just about the wins and losses, but the individual growth that wrestling provides. “What it teaches is character unlike any other sport in the world, and I think that’s what makes this sport so great.”

And Jordan has been instrumental in inspiring so many in our community.. As a leader at so many levels in the sport of wrestling, Jordan takes this responsibility seriously. “I’m thankful for being able to be a person who can help indirectly and sometimes directly, but also, just trying to encourage the people that are there often and trying to help when I can.”

“For such a long time, I’ve considered myself a mentor, not only to my peers, but just to the next generation of athletes that grow up in the sport of wrestling.”

In the last year, Jordan took his work with BTSP to the next level by becoming a mentor and working closely with a BTSP studentathlete. He became a regular around the mentoring center and used his position in the sport to have a positive impact on the student-athletes.

“It was kind of eye opening,” he explains. “You don’t really understand what an individual is going through until they share their story, or until they’re caught up in a difficulty. And you have to really confront a lot of things that you’ve never seen.”

Jordan has had a huge impact on motivating and inspiring the next generation of BTSP Student-athletes, and despite all his years of experience in competing around the world, his work with BTSP has left a strong impression on him too. 

“I’ve had to let my guard down a little bit and say, ‘Okay, we’re not all playing with the same deck of cards. I have to be a lot more empathetic for the people that are going through the things that they’re experiencing.’”

BTSP Podcast: Lender Vega, Wrestling Coordinator

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In this episode of the podcast, we have the chance to speak with Lender Vega, who works full-time at BTS Philly as the Wrestling Coordinator. Lender has a rich history with the Beat the Streets program.

While we often talk about the intersection of academics and athletics, Lender’s story has an unusual twist. During a freshman year seminar, his teacher offered the students five extra points if they participated in a sport. Lender jumped at the opportunity and joined the wrestling team. Despite a rocky start, Lender fell in love with the sport and continued improving.

Lender’s life journey has been defined by his resilience. He moved to the US from the Dominican Republic when he was just 11 years old, and at the time he didn’t know English. But Lender committed himself to school and began to excel in the classroom. “My dad from day one said: don’t get in trouble and keep your grades up.”

As Lender advanced on the wrestling mat, he began thinking about wrestling in college. Unlike today, Beat the Streets didn’t have a formalized mentoring program at the time. So former Executive Director Chris Hanlon walked him through the college admission process and took him on school visits.

In the podcast, Executive Director James Mangan points out, “In a lot of ways, this was a pilot phase of the mentoring program. Beat the Streets was well-equipped to address the needs from a wrestling perspective, but it was always in the plan to figure out how to also serve academically. And you were early in that phase of discovery.”

Lender finally settled on a Junior College in New Jersey, but his challenges didn’t stop there. Lender found that his public school education didn’t prepare him for the rigors of college, and despite his best effort, he failed out of school.

It was at this tough time that Chris Hanlon reached out. “Hanlon just said, ‘Hey, stick around us and we’ll see where you’re where you’ll land.’” He brought Lender on as a coach for Beat the Street youth. But Lender’s story doesn’t stop there. After a year of coaching, he decided to go back to school. 

 Lender eventually graduated from East Stroudsburg University, becoming the first college graduate in his family. And now as the Wrestling Coordinator at Beat the Streets he is doing amazing work and serving the community that he comes from. We are grateful to have Lender in the Beat the Streets family!

BTSP Podcast: Evan Barczak NCAA Qualifier and Lead Mentor

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In this episode of the podcast, we got the chance to speak with Evan Barczak, a Drexel University wrestler who has been an instrumental member of the Beat the Streets Philadelphia community for the past four years. According to Executive Director James Mangan, “His role as a lead mentor really helped shape a lot of this programming over the last couple of years.”

As a freshman at Drexel, Evan heard about the program from an older teammate and showed up to a pizza party event. He was immediately inspired by the student-athletes he met there. “The kids were just so excited about wrestling. They just wanted to talk about the World Championships or what was going on in college wrestling. And I was like, ‘Oh, this is awesome!’”

“And then just talking to the kids and hearing their stories and what they’ve gone through. And I was just like, ‘Man, I want to be a part of this.’”

Evan hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped since then. Despite a full slate of college courses and a Division I wrestling schedule, he managed to prioritize spending time at the mentoring center.

“If something’s really important to you, you’ll make time for it in the day. And this is something that’s important to me. I want to get back to these kids and be there for them.”

Despite his rigorous schedule, Evan continues to draw motivation from the kids themselves. “Some of them had very hard lives,” he says. “And overcome very hard things , but they’re just always in a great mood. They’re super excited. I can’t be upset. I can never complain about having a bad day.”

Evan graduated from Drexel in 2021 and is continuing his education to pursue an MBA. Here at Beat the Streets we are beyond excited that Evan will be with us one more term as a lead mentor.

“It’s really nice to know that he’s going to be around a little bit longer,” said James Mangan.

11 Wrestlers Qualify for the USA Wrestling National Championship

Over the past years, Beat the Streets Philadelphia wrestlers have increasingly found success in Freestyle/Greco-Roman wrestling, and this year was no different. After an exciting spring season of qualifiers, weekend clinics, & practices, BTSP was able to take eighteen student-athletes to Alvernia University to compete in the PA Freestyle & Greco Wrestling State Championships. The top four finishers at the state tournament in 16U & Junior age groups at each weight class qualify for the USAW Freestyle/Greco-Roman National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota! In combination between the State tournament and the Regional qualifiers, BTSP has a record-high ten BTSP wrestlers qualified for the Fargo National Championships this July! A summary of the results is listed below: 


  1. Artem Skyba 170 lbs Freestyle Northeast Regional Champion
  2. Bekhruz Sadriddinov 170 lbs Greco Northeast Regional Champion / Freestyle PA State Champion
  3. Greyson Catlow-Sidler 152 lbs Freestyle States 4th / Greco PA State Champion.
  4. Muhyyee-ud-Din Abdul-Rahman 170 lbs PA Greco States 4th 
  5. James Taft 170 lbs PA Greco States runner up 


  1. Matt Clarke 195 lbs Greco Northeast Regional 6th place finish
  2. Davian Waite 220 lbs PA Greco State Champion.
  3. Davlat Pulotjonov 160 lbs PA Greco State 3rd 
  4. Ernazar Baiyshbekov 152 lbs PA Greco States 3rd / PA Freestyle States 4th
  5. Shermuhammad Sadriddinov Greco Northeast Regional 3rd

Additionally, BTSP wrestlers had great success at the youth & middle school levels. Below are the results for our young wrestlers: Bantam

  1. Samiyah Rahming 119 lbs (1st FS / 1st GR)

HM- Julissa Ortiz 127 lbs due to injury she was unable to compete at states. Julissa is a Folkstyle state champion, has placed at all the freestyle and Greco tournaments she has entered and is a part of the 14U PAUSAW Women’s team currently competing at Tulsa Oklahoma. 

Lastly, Beat the Streets would like to thank all coaches for making this spring season possible! David James, Parker Kropman, and Dorthea West. I would also like to thank the parents and mentors behind the scenes. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard all season long to provide kids with high-level wrestling experiences and a fun team environment to be a part of!

BTSP Podcast: CJ Composto, NCAA All-American and Mentor

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In this episode of the podcast, we have the honor of speaking with UPenn wrestler CJ Composto, who became a Division I All-American this March with an 8th Place finish at the NCAA tournament. Although CJ dominated on the mat this season, what stands out to us is his dedication to serving others.

“Every time I look up, I see CJ at the mentoring center,” said BTS Philly Executive Director James Mangan. “It’s incredible that he’s able to dedicate the time on top of a rigorous athletic and academic schedule.”

James went further to pose a question to the Philadelphia wrestling community: “What do the three most recent Penn All-Americans (Lorenzo Thomas, Casey, Kent, and CJ Composto) have in common?”

Answer: they were all heavily involved in mentoring at Beat the Streets.

CJ explained how working with the student-athletes at Beat the Streets inspires him to be a better person. 

“My mentee Liam will push me outside of my comfort zone and try to look at areas in my life that I could be getting better at. And then like, I’ll try to push him outside of his comfort zone, because it helps when you have someone that can hold you accountable.”

“I’ll talk with Liam about something that I want to improve on. And then I’ll be in the next week, and he’s like, ‘You doing this, you doing this?’”

Despite an Ivy League academic workload and Division I wrestling schedule, CJ still shows up to the mentoring center as much as possible.

“There are some weeks where maybe I’m able to get into the office like three or four times a week versus another week I can only get them once or twice,” he said. But he makes it a priority.

“One of the things I love the most about Beat the Streets is that everyone that’s there wants to be there, which you don’t really get anywhere.”

Besides a top academic and wrestling program, CJ was driven to Penn by the Philadelphia wrestling ecosystem. “They talked about the whole ecosystem and how serving others is a core value.”

CJ was first drawn to BTS when UPenn Assistant Coach BJ Futrell told him about it. “He explained the benefits that you can get from mentorship and how by lifting other people up, you lift yourself up along the way. So it’s like a win-win type of relationship.”

BTSP Podcast: Regina Johnson

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In this episode of the podcast we are joined by Regina Johnson, who brings a new perspective on the program. Regina is not only the Athletic Director at Martin Luther King High School, but her son and nephew are BTS student athletes.

According to Regina, it’s been a life-changing program for her family. “It’s just a sense that you’re not by yourself. You always have somebody that can support you and assist you. And that’s extremely important, especially today.”

As an administrator at Martin Luther King High School, she has witnessed the power of the program to provide a safe haven for her students. “I’ve had a number of students killed due to gun violence. So every time they leave me, I say, ‘Be safe, have a great day, be safe.’ Because what’s going on in the city is extremely difficult as a mother and as an educator.”

For Johnson, Beat the Streets provides a sense of community which transcends the sport of wrestling. With Beat the Streets programming, “they have a place to go that is comfortable, where they are learning. They’re getting tutoring skills, they’re learning real life situations. So when they have another place to go. It just helps so much.”

As an athlete herself, she understands the life lessons that can come from sports. But as a wrestling mother, she was surprised to find that the wrestling and Beat the Streets community extends beyond the walls of the gymnasium. “So that is really important, especially for students in this environment in Philadelphia, that they know they’re not by themselves and they have people to depend on.”

Beat the Streets has worked hard to grow the sport of girls wrestling in Philadelphia, and Regina has been a tireless ally towards that goal. Johnson has long been a big proponent of girls’ sports and the wrestling program at Martin Luther King High School is a great example of a Beat the Streets partner that has fully embraced girls’ wrestling with a number of girls participating in the program.

“When a couple of the girls said they wanted to wrestle, ‘Okay, cool. I’m gonna support you 110%.’ Girls should not be limited to play one or two things. The sky’s the limit for girls.”

It is not always an easy task, according to Regina. “We also have to open the minds of parents, because we have parents who have certain visions of girls. So it’s not just girls wrestling, it’s girl sports in general. It’s very difficult for me to be in an environment where girls get treated differently. Here in the city of Philadelphia, one thing I noticed is a lot of girls have to watch the younger siblings and do extra housework, and they can’t participate in girls athletics.”

In the end, Regina Johnson finds the fight for girls’ sports worth it. “I feel like if girls are involved in something, your school will be better.”

Regina Johnson is an invaluable partner for Beat the Streets and a crucial member of our community. We want to thank her for all of her work to support the student athletes!

BTSP Podcast: Dan Altomare

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On this episode of the podcast, we get the chance to speak with Dan Altomare, the Director of Program Operations for BTS Philly. Dan has a deep and thorough knowledge of BTS programming from many different levels and is an invaluable member of the staff.

Dan’s journey with BTS Philly began in 2015 when he was getting a degree in Sports and Recreation Management from Temple University. As part of his degree, he got an internship with BTS Philly. He thought it would just be a temporary assignment, but was drawn to the mission and satisfaction of working with the student athletes

“I think something that’s just really unique about Beat the Streets,” said Dan. “That feeling like you really are a part of something bigger than yourself. And the feeling that the work I was doing was important, which not everybody gets to feel, especially not as an intern. There are a lot of interns out there that are grabbing cups of coffee and not really doing anything super meaningful. But I felt like I was making a difference in kids’ lives. And I was lucky to be able to do that.”

The following year, Dan returned as a volunteer at the Mentoring Center. He was planning on returning to school, but then a staff position opened up and he jumped at the opportunity.

Dan talks about the many lessons he learned from mentors within the BTS community like former Executive Director Chris Hanlon and PAL coach Ed Schneider, both of whom have been featured on this podcast.

Dan is now the Director of Program Operations, a role where he coordinates daily with all of the constituents of the BTS community. He works directly with the coaches and organizes the programming at Beat the Streets 30 programs around Greater Philadelphia. 

Executive Director James Mangan praised Dan’s ability to organize these various programs under the BTS umbrella. “He builds adaptable systems. He’s very thoughtful in how we construct programming. He’s great at engaging the different stakeholders in the planning process.”

In this episode, Dan reviews the Spring Schedule for BTS Philly. See the full schedule below.