NEW YORK, NY – August 14, 2017 – LSSNY is proud to announce that Ayodele Saromi has been named the latest recipient of the Wheat Ridge Ministries Emerging Leader Grant. Mr. Saromi, the Office Administrator and Attendance Teacher at The New LIFE School (TNLS), a related entity of Lutheran Social Services of New York, has created a unique afterschool program for high school students that combines academic support and fitness education. TNLS is a non-public school located at 831 Eagle Avenue (Bronx, NY), serving students with special education needs, ages 8-12 (grades 3-12) in an individualized program tailored to their academic, social and emotional needs.

The grant will fund a new afterschool program, called Fit Minds/Fit Bodies, which will provide academic and physical enrichment to our high school students. Rachel Levine-Kornfeld, TNLS Principal and Executive Director of Education Services said, “Since joining the staff in 2016, Mr. Saromi has broadened his role to become a valued teacher, mentor and community health advocate. With this grant, Wheat Ridge Ministries is recognizing his passion for teaching martial arts to children with autism and special needs as he creates innovative ways to improve his students’ socialization skills and fitness ability for a better quality of life.”

Mr. Saromi, who was encouraged by his family to eat nutritious, fresh food at home to maintain health and wellness, says he was naturally drawn to the field of human services. He received a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology/Biological Sciences from CUNY’s Lehman College and recently a Master of Arts in Healthcare Administration. At the age of 30, he has already built an impressive career, working as an Athletic Coach, Behavioral Therapist Supervisor and a Care Manager. “When he came to TNLS, he saw an opportunity to help youth improve the quality of their lives through exercise and healthy habits,” said Ms. Levine-Kornfeld. “From day one, Mr. Saromi has made his presence known at TNLS. From his gentle way of building rapport with troubled youth, and his mission to revitalize their health, he has provided a new layer of professional support to our school. Mr. Ayo, as his students call him, brings a fresh take on incorporating health and wellness into one’s lifestyle, at any age. He is determined to help all youth, but particularly young men of color, recognize their potential for success—and make it happen through fit minds/fit bodies!”

The Fit Minds/Fit Bodies after-school program has a dual focus that fosters academic growth by improving study skills and overall fitness through the practice of martial arts. “With the support of Wheat Ridge Ministries and this grant, I will be able to use my skills and experience as a teacher, coach and martial arts practitioner to help high school students at TNLS build lasting health. I want to help them embrace the opportunities within their communities, to get physically, emotionally and spiritually fit,” said Mr. Saromi. Within the Bronx, there are few opportunities for special education high school students to participate in afterschool programming. Many local programs are geared toward typically-developing teens or require too much travel for special education students. For that reason, Mr. Saromi and Ms. Levine-Kornfeld felt it was important to bring afterschool services to their students.

The afterschool program begins in September, and Mr. Saromi is quick to note that while students will improve their academic skills and fitness through the program, another long-term goal is to guide them to make positive choices in their lives and to work with others to foster life-affirming goals.

Founded in 1886, Lutheran Social Services of New York is a nonprofit, social service organization devoted to strengthening lives, families and community. Lutheran Social Services of New York has developed a wide range of educational and community programs to assist 7,000 people across New York every day to reach their full potential. To learn more about its programs, visit:

Wheat Ridge Ministries Emerging Leader Grants provide up to $10,000 for two years to inspired leaders. The grants are awarded to those who lead an innovative health or human care focused program, are between the ages of 20-35 years old and are connected to the Lutheran community. Read more about the latest Emerging Leaders grant recipients, including Ayo Saromi, here: To learn more about the grant program, visit: