Combining Passion with Focused Youth Development Creates a Winning Formula for YALD (Young Adult Leadership Development) in Washington Heights

Sponsorships like Ice Air’s Keep YALD Program Relevant and Youth Engaged

David Calderon’s passion as President of YALD (Young Adult Leadership Development), a sports-based youth development non-profit organization, is unmistakable when you speak with him.

“When my close friend, Carlos Castellanos, came up with the original idea in 2011 – starting a football program in the neighborhood they grew up in, Washington Heights – he asked me to get involved. I noticed after the second year that his vision could be much bigger than anything we thought of,” Calderon says, “so when he asked me for even more help, I jumped at the chance. I love it. You have to understand that It’s for the kids in the neighborhood, with the crime and everything else going on, it’s just what’s needed to create a much-needed balance. And frankly, that’s why YALD has grown into something truly significant.”

Calderon, who grew up in the neighborhood where YALD operates, says it is a baseball-basketball community, but had no football. YALD became an organization committed to supporting disadvantaged young people to learn fundamental sports skills, such as sportsmanship, respect, teamwork, leadership, fair play and self-confidence through football.

“We wanted to use football as a tool to help in making young men and women turn into mature, young adults,” he explains. “So today, we use football as a complete program that brings kids to the field; on the field, near the field – all the prepositions that involve learning life lessons from coaches who care. That kind of commitment produces long-lasting relationships with these kids, so they have someone to talk to on AND off the field, now and after they leave the program.”

Calderon said that in an upcoming game during the holidays, for example, many of the former players returned for the games and attend to share stories. “That doesn’t just happen,” he points out proudly. “It’s because this program works – our commitment to the growth of these young people pays off for what they are doing in the world, and what they will do,” he stresses.

Ric Nadel, the president and CEO of Ice Air, one of the long-time sponsors of YALD, and the company where Calderon has worked for the past 15 years, said that the commitment Calderon shows to YALD carries over to his job at Ice Air.

“David is responsible for developing, leading and executing purchasing strategies at the company,” Nadel explained. “He tracks and reports key functional metrics to control expenses. He’s our go-to guy on these details, and frankly, we support YALD because of the important work they do. With David’s leadership, we continue to support them with our funding efforts. Supporting the community is part of every corporation’s responsibility, isn’t it? David just makes it easy for us.”

Where the Action Is

YALD plays its games at Michael J. Buczek Ballfield. Police Officer Michael Buczek was shot and killed when he and his partner attempted to arrest two suspects on a drug charge in an apartment building at 580 West 161st Street in Washington Heights. The field, park, and elementary school have all been named in his honor.

When YALD began, there was not a lot of participation. The program was designed for 12-to-17-year-olds, but the founders had the desire to expand its reach to seven-to-11-year-olds in order to engage them in the program from early childhood.

“One of my main objectives is to see how we can get increased community participation at all ages,” he says. “Every Saturday 9:30 to 2PM outside the field is now filled with parents and spectators. Police cars will pull over and watch. It’s terrific.”

Calderon says that an unexpected personal benefit from his involvement with YALD was learning how to fundraise and write grants, as he did while helping YALD attain 501c3 certification. “We are forever thankful for the donations from our sponsors like Ice Air,” he emphasizes. Besides Ice air, sponsors of YALD include Locksmith Bar, Tryon Public House, Tread Bike Shop and Compton Eye Associates.

Forward Thinking Pays Dividends

“We’re always trying to think forward,” Calderon says. “That’s why our coaches are held to the highest of standards, and many have been with us for a long time.”

He gives the example of not allowing cursing on the field which, according to Calderon is a huge component in developing the kids. If they curse, they’re given a ten-minute suspension the first time, and the second time they get thrown out of the game.

“I was the Bobby Knight of this league when I coached,” Calderon half-heartedly jokes, “I used to throw my clipboard, so hard I broke it one time. But I love to coach, which takes discipline, and not cursing requires such discipline. Besides, I prefer being the President because now I’m everyone’s coach. We collaborate, and in the end, it makes all the kids better.”

His biggest challenge was COVID

“In 11 years, COVID was the biggest obstacle. It hit at the beginning of one season, the parks department didn’t want to give us a permit; we had to create a COVID protocol, you know, checking temperatures and so on. We followed that protocol and played, and I’m happy to report not one case was positive in all that time! We ran the league with the protocols in place,” he stresses.

The primary objective isn’t football, he adds as he enters the parking lot for Ice Air. “It’s making them better individuals and community leaders. Like our motto says, we’re committed to providing the advocacy, educational and physical development that will strengthen the community’s future. That’s a lot of words that mean one thing: shaping the future by shaping the individual. Attitude is infectious.”

David Calderon, President YALD (L), Kelvin Valentin, Program Director (YALD) (M) and Carlos Castellanos, Founder YALD ( R) take a moment to talk about their organization, the YALD (Young Adult Leadership Development), a sports-based youth development in the Washington Heights neighborhood.

About Ice Air

Ice Air, LLC, headquartered in Mount Vernon, New York, develops and manufactures a wide variety of HVAC units to provide superior new construction heating and cooling systems and to replace old installations. Ice Air offers advanced green technologies, environmentally sound “green” refrigerant, and provides world class comfort at high efficiency levels, meeting environmental standards and promoting a healthy environment. In addition to the CCHPD units, Ice Air offers: Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner Units (PTACs), Fan Coil Units (FCUs), Single Package Vertical Air Conditioner and Heat Pumps (SPAC/SPHP), and Hybrid Water Cooled A/C conditioners (HWCAC).

For more information on their involvement with YALD, contact: Ric Nadel, CEO and President., Ice Air, LLC, 80 Hartford Ave, Mount Vernon, NY 10553 T: 914-668-4700.