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Corinthia Benison ‘05 Delivers Social Justice Through Wellness
Greg Kwasnik

When Corinthia Benison ’05 left her home in Harlem to enroll in Holderness School at the age of 13, she found herself adjusting to a completely new environment. Corinthia, a basketball standout for the Bulls who went on to earn a full athletic scholarship to the University of Delaware, says going to Holderness was a privilege and opportunity that “changed the trajectory of my life.” But it wasn’t an entirely easy transition.
“I learned a lot about myself. Looking back, I wish I was a little more sociable,” Corinthia says. “Coming from the city, being the only brown girl in my class, those are things I look back on and say ‘You know, you were doing something that no one else was really doing at the time.’ I kind of have to cut myself some slack.”
Today, Corinthia is back in New York City - and she’s still doing things others aren’t. In this case, she’s working tirelessly to create an entirely new, community-based mental health and behavioral health clinic in Harlem. It’s called Renaissance Center of Mastery, and it will provide addiction counseling, therapy, and career development programs to underserved populations in her community. “We want to be right in the neighborhood. You don’t have to take two trains to a bus,” Corinthia says. “There are a lot of barriers in why people don’t seek treatment for therapy. We want to break a lot of those barriers and be right where the need is.”
The idea for Renaissance Center of Mastery came to Corinthia during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she, like so many others, found herself questioning her career path and mission in life. Having spent the previous decade working at Mount Sinai Medical Center, most recently as a physician access services coordinator, she was well-versed in the administrative ins-and-outs of the healthcare system. She also knew just how broken the system was - especially for patients on managed care who often have to wait longer for services and suffer from a lack of access. Corinthia knew that she could do something to help address those problems. “You know how to build networks, how organizations should partner. You know the healthcare system,” she recalls telling herself. “Do something that is not completely a redesign, but a new niche for a population that needs it, particularly youth. I just went from there.”
The need for a clinic like Renaissance Center of Mastery is greater than ever. During the first year of the pandemic, the global prevalence of depression and anxiety increased 25 percent, according to a March 2022 report by the World Health Organization. It’s an increase that is disproportionately borne by young people who, according to the report, are at a greater risk of self-harming behavior or suicidal thoughts. At the same time, New York City and many other areas across the globe have seen a marked increase in crime. In February of 2022 alone, overall crime in New York City was up 58 percent over the previous year, according to the New York Police Department. It’s a trend Corinthia has observed firsthand in Harlem, where gun violence and other forms of crime are on the rise. “Every other day we have a shootout, we have police getting shot,” Corinthia says. “The victims are young and the assailants - these people are under 25, in most cases. What’s really going on here?”
While sociologists and psychologists will likely spend decades studying the relationship between the pandemic, crime, and mental health outcomes, Corinthia knows one thing for sure: the young people in her community aren’t receiving the services they need. As a child, Corinthia benefitted from youth service organizations like The Harbor for Girls and Boys, and SCAN Reach for the Stars, which helped her pursue her Holderness education. “A lot of these programs don’t exist anymore,” Corinthia says. “There’s not enough to meet the needs of the youth.” Beyond the lack of services available to young people, Corinthia says, there is a stigma against seeking mental health care in Harlem and other communities of color. The Renaissance Center of Mastery seeks to break that stigma. “I want youth to know that seeing a therapist, talking about your issues – whether you’re having anxiety or depression, whether you’re discovering your sexuality – all of those things you can speak about in a safe space, and it’s ok.”
Renaissance Center of Mastery will be unique in that it will offer young people between the ages of 12 to 24 a more comprehensive clinic experience where they can see a therapist, receive substance abuse counseling if needed, and take part in career development programs to gain skills like coding and web design. Few organizations offer all of these services in the same location. “We want to grow programs where kids are like ‘Ok, this is what I’m into, this is attractive to me, and I’m also getting therapy in the same space,’” Corinthia says. “We want to raise the bar on what a clinic experience is, in every sense.”
Corinthia is fully committed to making her vision for Renaissance Center of Mastery a reality. She left her job at Mount Sinai Medical Center in early 2021, and since then has devoted all of her time and energy to consulting with experts, assembling a board of directors, and scouting clinic space in Harlem. This spring, Corinthia - who will serve as the organization’s executive director - will begin a fundraising campaign to truly get the project off the ground. “Right now I’m really trying to cultivate relationships and starting a fundraising campaign,” Corinthia says. “It really is about relationships. It’s about trust, it’s about people believing in your vision, and getting out there.”
While Corinthia is devoted to making positive change in Harlem, she has also found time to give back to the Holderness community. On a visit to campus last winter, she reconnected with her old teachers, met with the basketball team, and re-lived her happy campus memories. Looking to the future, Corinthia hopes to help mentor and recruit students with backgrounds similar to hers. “I still love the game of basketball and if I could be a bridge with any kid who would want to take on that experience, that’s capable of that transition, being able to help in that way,” Corinthia says. “I think about young people like myself who could really benefit from an opportunity like Holderness, and seeing how I could help with that young generation.”

To learn more about Renaissance Center of Mastery, visit

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