THE BRONX - Tarik Carr has turned the death of his mother into hope for the children whom he mentors, and he has been recognized as "mentor of the year" in the process.

Carr, 23, is thankful for the award from the Mentoring Partnership of New York and Long Island. "I didn't think that an award like this would ever come to someone like me," he says.

Carr mentors children four times a week at the community-health group Health People. He joined the organization when he was 14 years old. His mother had died from cancer.

"It was a difficult time because she was my role model," he says. "She taught me to never forget where I came from, and I take that as a huge weight on my shoulders."

He relays that message of pride to his mentees, who are as young as 5 years old.

"Tarik's a good guy," says Robert Barrett, 13. "I think of him as an older brother."

Carr hopes to one day run his own mentoring program.