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Mentorship between Middletown basketball player, elementary student proves to be 'game changer'

Middletown Izaiah Day, Bri'dyn Buchanan
Posted at 7:35 PM, Mar 08, 2023

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Middletown High School senior Izaiah Day looks out of place sitting in a bean bag chair in a Creekview Elementary classroom. But the basketball star does it every week to get on the same level as his mentee, 10-year-old Bri'dyn Buchanan.

"He's a good listener and talker," Buchanan said of his mentor.

When asked what things they talk about, he simply said "important stuff."

At the end of last year, it was clear to the staff at Creekview that Buchanan, who is bright and kind, was having some issues acting out at school.

They brainstormed and realized his love of basketball might lead them to the perfect mentor. So they turned to Middletown High School basketball coach, Kelven Moss.

"Without hesitation, I already knew who that person was going to be," Moss said.

Enter Izaiah Day, who takes an hour out of his day every week to hang out with Buchanan. During each session, Day teaches him about different things — like being tidy at home or dealing with anger.

"(I want) to give someone an experience I didn't have," Day said.

Day said he went to a private grade school where he was the only Black student. He didn't have a mentor or someone who understood what he was going through.

"I used to be a very angry kid," Day said. "I was always upset, frustrated and mad all the time. And to have an older sibling — or even a mentor like I am to Bri'dyn — would have been really nice to let me know, 'It's OK, I get where you're coming from, but here's how to better handle it.'"

This week, Day and Buchanan focused on being respectful. Day said he's realized that these lessons are really impacting his mentee.

"At first I didn't understand how big this was going to impact someone," Day said. "But once he came in and was excited to tell me how great he was doing with the things I was telling him, that's when I was OK, this is bigger than I thought.

Creekview counselor Cindy Banfield said she sees a difference in the fourth grader.

"I am definitely seeing positive stuff out of Bri'dyn," she said. "I wish Izaiah could come every day."

For Buchanan, he said being with Day "makes me relax." He often smiles when they talk and as the session goes on, he starts opening up about what's going on in his life.

Day and his coach believe the fact that both boys are Black matters.

"To have a role model of the same race, the same ethnicity, who goes through the same things that you do and understands you, and can not only be sympathetic but empathetic is a big thing," Day said.

As for Day, he said he loves giving back and being a positive force for good. And he loves working with kids.

"I love the youth," Day said. "I participated in all our youth basketball camps, I love those. They all have bright, shiny faces and they're always excited to learn something new."

His coach said Day's enthusiasm, work ethic and intelligence started at home. Day received a full scholarship to play basketball at Taylor University in Indiana.

"He's consistent. He's disciplined," Moss said. "He comes from a great family who've created structure in his life and he takes pride in paying forward his leadership skills."

And when Moss watched Day working with his mentee, his first reaction was that it was "powerful."

"We need more kids like Izaiah Day who want to give back and make an impact on the kids in our community," Moss said.

The elementary school and Moss want to expand the mentoring program. He said they want to "connect kids with great leaders and help pour positivity into them."

"I think that can be a game changer for our community," said Moss.

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