Full Steam Ahead for Alex Conaway

Tell us about yourself?

I’ve lived in New Haven all my life, attended high school here, and graduated from Cross in 2011. Just to give you a little bit of the background on my high school experience, I had a really unique experience. My dad was my assistant principal in high school, so that was fun. I played play basketball at Cross for all four years. I was pretty involved, I did a lot of community service, I was a part of the prom committee, and I worked in the school store. I just did a lot with the senior class as I was preparing for college. After graduating from Cross I went to Trinity College up in Hartford Connecticut and majored in education. I also played basketball there for four years. I was also pretty involved there. I was a student worker I had a work-study position working in the athletics department. I was a pride leader on campus which stands for promoting respect and inclusive diversity and education. I did a lot I also joined Omega Psi Phi Fraternity incorporated when I was a senior in college, the Tal Iota chapter in the fall of 2014.

After finishing my undergrad I started my Master’s at Trinity which was actually a graduate fellowship program. I worked in the dean of students office and I worked with incoming first-year students that pretty much helped them transition from high school to college, it was a really cool job and I liked it a lot. I also was a graduate assistant coach with the basketball team. Once I finished my undergrad I didn’t want to leave the basketball team. I’m like, let me just keep coaching so I could stay around the guys. After getting my Master’s in American Studies, I made a transition to Poughkeepsie, New York, working at Marist college where I worked in the first-year programs office. And it was a very similar position to the one I had at Trinity helping first-year students transition from high school to college. In those four years that I was there, I would say I did a lot on that campus. In terms of like collaborations with different departments on campus, I did some work in the student-athlete enhancement center. I got strategic funding to start a men’s group for first-year males to sort of help find themselves while they’re in college, pretty much to understand their purpose. And I enjoyed that a lot. Last summer, I got hired to work at Cheshire Academy, where I’m currently a Roxbury academic support instructor and assistant basketball coach.

One of the biggest things that I’ve accomplished and one of my proudest moments. My brother and I in January of 2020, like right before everything got shut down. We started a nonprofit organization in New Haven called all-access training and student-athlete development. The purpose of that program is to help middle school and high school student-athletes to really optimize their experiences and future opportunities to the fullest through establishing a foundation of personal skills, knowledge, and self-awareness so they can reach their full potential, personally, academically, and athletically. This is something that I’m really passionate about just because I came up through New Haven Public Schools playing basketball. And one thing that I always saw was between the athletes and their academics, there was always a disconnect. Oftentimes, and especially with basketball, there are students who were really good athletes, but they didn’t take their academics as seriously. So that’s something that both me and my brother, want to change and we’re going to help these student-athletes to find that balance between their athletics and academics. So we can help shape the lives of these young student-athletes within the city.

What is your favorite NBA team?

Oh, I’m a Knicks fan. I’ve been going to games since my dad was a season ticket holder back in the 90s. And he used to take me and my brother to the games a lot. They were good in the 90s. Then in the 2000s, you know, they started to fall off a little bit. I’m still a loyal fan. I still watch watched every single game. Me and my brother actually got season tickets this year. Or I would say last season or this past season. We’re continuing our season tickets the next year. So I’m a big-time Knicks fan. I actually got an autograph back in the day on a ticket (from Spike Lee). I ended up losing it, but I did get his autograph.

What are some of your proudest achievements as of right now?

Yeah, I will say definitely a nonprofit, that is something I’m very passionate about. I think just seeing from where we started in 2020, to where we are today, that’s definitely a big accomplishment that I have in my life and we’re still growing, we’re still a really small organization. But this is something that I want to continue to do for the rest of my life. Another thing is joining my fraternity, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity incorporated because my dad is a part of the fraternity and my older brothers are a part of the fraternity. It was something that I’ve been around my entire life, I grew up around all the Qs and all the older members in the fraternity growing up, I just saw them as my uncles. And I’m like, Yeah, I want to be like them one day. Now seeing myself as they were 20 years ago, I think that’s pretty cool. The third thing I would say is getting both my Undergrad and Master’s degree from Trinity College. I think right now it’s probably like one of the Top 45 liberal arts schools in the country. So I think that’s definitely a big accomplishment for me.

Did Promise help you through high school at all?

Absolutely. I actually remember this was in this was 2010 or 2011. I was a senior high in school, I remember me and my dad, we actually went to one of the first New Haven Promise meetings. When I found out about it, I was like oh I have to be a part of this. I didn’t really understand what it was at the time but I knew I had to be a part of it. Like, I want to be a New Haven Promise Scholar, and then just fast-forwarding up to about I think it was 2013 when I was going into my junior year in college so about nine years ago, Patricia actually came to my house, her and a cameraman interviewed me just to talk about what shaped me to become a New Haven Promise Scholar and the people who’ve helped me along the way, so I definitely do appreciate everything that New Haven Promise has done for me. In 2017 Promise helped me get a summer job. It was some internship working with the city, but just helping me meet new people who work in the city. I think that’s pretty cool. So the Promise has definitely given me a handful of opportunities. I think that’s definitely helped shaped me into the person that I am today.

What was your college experience like?

It was a really unique experience. Going into college. I’ll be honest,  I didn’t know what to expect. Initially, I’d say I didn’t want to go to Trinity, but my dad, told me, that if I go to Trinity, it’ll, be one of the best decisions that I make in life. Now that I look back on it, he was right, I was able to meet people from literally all over the world. I had people on my basketball team from Greece, Japan, and different parts of the country and I think just meeting different types of people was something that I really appreciated, the courses that I was able to take, the professors who I met, it was a very cool experience. A lot of people who are my friends in college are still my friends to this day.

What did you major in?

Education, my concentration was urban education. So I took some really cool classes, race in urban space, which was a good class, the child and American culture, I took a class called city suburbs in schools, and sports in American history. So there were some really cool classes that I definitely learned a lot from and I think it was the network. The network that we call the Trinity network. Everybody who graduates from Trinity is in this. I’m actually going to be on campus Saturday for graduation. It’s graduation and reunion weekend, so I’ll be able to connect with, some of my old friends, coaches, teachers, and staff. Trinity is always going to be a part of me because I spent six years here. I definitely appreciate everything that the school has given to me.

And how did you manage school and basketball? That sounds like a lot in itself.

It had its rough moments. I spent a lot of time in the library, a lot of time in the library. For me, I just did my best to stay organized. And that’s one thing with my nonprofit organization now, with the student-athletes that we work with, I think the most important thing is to be organized, keep a planner, whatever works for you, that helps you stay organized. I think that’s what helped me a lot. And then just remembering my long-term goals I knew I wanted to graduate so I’m like, alright, I can’t, can’t be fooling around every night. So I had to make sure that I was doing what I was supposed to do and making sure that I was getting good grades because if I came home with bad grades, my parents wouldn’t be too pleased. I also wanted to stay eligible, you can’t be getting DS and C’s and expect to be on the court.

Do you feel that you even Promise has Helped You During Your College Experience as well?

Yeah, I would say so. I think just seeing the people who came after me, allowing me to almost set the blueprint for the next set of Promise Scholars like I said, that summer when Patricia came to my house to interview me, I think just giving me that platform to speak to the future of  Promise, I think that’s something that helped me because it gave me the opportunity to use my voice and to speak on the things that I’ve learned throughout my couple of years in college back when I was a student.

What was it like playing for the basketball team? Also, what was the work-life balance?

Oh, I loved it. When I came in, there were 11 first-year students, so we were a really young team, we only had one senior. Fortunately, for me, I was able to play a lot as a first-year student, I definitely had my ups and downs. My coach was on me a lot. But I appreciate it, he meant well, as I started to get older I started to progress. When I became a Junior, and our team started to get really good, I’m like, Oh, this is what he meant. The experience being on the basketball team was great. We struggled our first two years, but when I was a Junior, Senior, we had some really good teams. During Senior year we ended up making the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament, and we should have made it to the final four, but we kind of blew it at the end, overall I feel like I had a real good college basketball career, and that’s one of the reasons why I still go back to Trinity and support the basketball team. I was actually there a couple of weeks ago, they had a camp for their high school prospects. So just going there, seeing the guys on the team, and connecting with the coach who’s still there. It’s just great.

What was your experience, like getting that first job?

Honestly, it didn’t feel like work because I enjoyed it so much. With the fellowship that I had at Trinity, I still knew a lot of people who went to the school. I was getting my Master’s, so I still felt like I was a student. I was getting paid a little more than the work-study check. I enjoyed it a lot. Just being able to, to see the other side, to see how the administration works and how the school operates from that level helped me learn a lot and it helped me build some connections with the president of the school board of trustees, the workers in the Dean of Students Office, and the athletic director, so it was definitely a good experience just getting my feet in that professional door for the first time. I learned a lot.

How did you get back to Connecticut from Marist College? 

Yeah, so I actually wanted to come back to Connecticut. I was looking for something new and Cheshire Academy’s a private boarding school. I felt like some of the relationships with the college students weren’t as meaningful just because the students are a little older and they’re a little more independent. I was just ready for a change and I wanted to stay in education. So I just started looking for some jobs in Connecticut. My coach from Trinity actually gave me a call. He’s like, “yeah, are you still looking for a job like one of my buddies is the head coach at Cheshire Academy? He’s looking for an assistant coach and they have a couple of positions open at the school that would fit you well.” I ended up applying for the job and I got it, I would say I aced the interview. So here I am.

What is your favorite thing about New Haven?

I would say being around my family. My mom and dad are still in New Haven, my brother’s still here too. He’s a principal at Davis right now. So I think just being close to my family. New Haven literally has promise, which is why I want to stay here, I’m here for the long run. I want my nonprofit to be set in New Haven, one of my goals for that is to actually open up a student-athlete resource center in New Haven. I want to create my own legacy here and build from that, and really help make some change within the city, especially within the student-athlete community, because I came from New Haven, and I was able to do some good things. I feel like if other student-athletes could see what I was able to do, and hear my story, then they’ll be able to believe that they can do the same thing without having to leave the city. A lot of people believe they have to leave New Haven. You can stay right here, New Haven has a lot to offer. 

How did you go about creating your nonprofit?

We were just sitting in my brother’s living room talking. He was a teacher at the time and he was handling the after-school program at Davis. They would do basketball. He was like, Hey, do you want to like come by to school and do a workout? So I did that one day, most of the kids there were in seventh and eighth grade. When I did it I’m like, Oh, this is fun. I like talking to the kids and showing them proper things to do with basketball. So I felt as if I can do it, so we started a business. I started a nonprofit and then that’s really how it happened. We sat down and just started writing some things up we made a nice little business plan then we got in contact with a couple of people who started nonprofits before and then we just went from there, a lot of it was learning on the fly. It literally just came from going to go Davis one day in November and doing a basketball workout for seventh and eighth graders and then it’s an hour every Sunday. We actually meet at Davis every Sunday and we hold small workouts, we give the kids smoothies after the workouts are done. We talk to them for about the first 25-30 minutes about the importance of having good grades and mentors. We always start off by asking them, how they are feeling? How was their week? How was school? Just to get them talking. When you’re that young, you don’t necessarily like to talk. So we’re just trying to teach them how to use their voice and how to express themselves in a positive manner.

What advice would you have for Promise scholars?

Yeah, I have three things. The first thing is definitely to set goals. It gives you a sense of direction and it gives you confidence when you check those boxes off and accomplish those different things. The second thing I would say is to definitely find mentors. I think mentors are very important to have. Just looking back at my journey, I don’t think I would be in the position that I am without, mentors, and it doesn’t have to be one person, you can have a team of mentors, just someone who you can look up to, someone who you trust, and someone who will steer you in the right direction. And then the last thing I would say is definitely start small but think big, and be patient with yourself. Obviously, things don’t happen overnight. But if you’re consistent with doing whatever it is that you want to do, you’ll eventually get good at it.  Malcolm Gladwell, says it takes like 1000 hours or something like that to master something I forget, I forget what it actually is. But if you’re consistent with it, then you’ll eventually make it. So start small think big and then and be and be patient with yourself.

How do people connect to your nonprofit?

Yeah, our Instagram is allaccesstraining_ and we have a website, allaccess203.org.