Entering into YouthBridge-NY in 2010, my sophomore year in high school I came in this single minded teenage who thought I had the world figured out. Today as I continue my sophomore year at Buffalo State, I realize how little I have figured out. I don't think I realized how much YouthBridge-NY helped me grow as an individual until after my two years were up. Going into anything you never know what to fully expect, and that's how I felt about youth bridge but as time progressed so did I.
The greatest lesson youth bridge taught me was how important diversity is. I attended catholic school my whole life, so really the only religion I was fully aware of was Christianity. Of course I've heard of other religions but never in a million years encountered or befriended anyone whose beliefs were different than mine. I learned so much about the kosher lifestyle and even had a few kosher meals which were quite tasty, if I might add. The most shocking revelation was when a fellow of mine who was Muslim, was partaking in Ramadan. It was an eye opener for me to see a boy of the same age have such discipline and strength. This was the first time I realized there is so much more out there, so many people with different views and beliefs not on just religion but life itself. YouthBridge taught me how to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds where before I would have avoided any person who I thought I couldn't relate to. As a teenager I had this fear of anything that was different, there was this comfort I received in feeling like the world is exactly how I thought it was; but now I receive such comfort and joy from learning that the world is nothing like I thought. I now have this yearning to learn about different things, not from textbooks and lectures but from everyday people that come from all over the world, from movies that display truthful plots of countries I've never been. Today I am the girl who will go out of my way to spark a conversation with someone who has an accent or anyone who is nothing like I am. I've learned with the help of youth bridge that the real life lessons and knowledge comes from your experiences and encounters with people. Most people do not understand the diversity within this country until they leave that neighborhood they have lived in for the past 15 years, go to college in a different city or find a job somewhere else; I was lucky to be exposed to this at the age of 16 and today 3 years later I feel like I've met every soul there is to meet because of youth bridge (but sadly I haven't). I can say that YouthBridge-NY has helped me grow into the well rounded young woman I am today and I thank them tremendously. I would not be where I am today without their help, so for that I thank them!
- Victoria Elias: YouthBridge-NY ‘12; Buffalo State University ‘16
I think I was more reserved before YBNY and there were people of different nationalities that I hadn’t met yet. They all seemed very exotic to me, but once I got to know them I realized that NYC is way more diverse than the Latinos and Blacks that lived in neighborhoods other than mine. I wasn’t much of a leader and I don’t think I would have used the leadership skills within me if YBNY hadn’t helped to bring those qualities out in me. It was a learning experience and a fun extension to school. If I had to do it over again, I would do it the exact same way and I wouldn’t change a thing. YBNY helped make the last two years of high school the best years of my life. If there was anything I learned, it was how to network and a lot of basic career advice like what to do at an interview and how to make a resume. If it weren’t for YBNY, I wouldn’t have known how to advance my career and reach out to people who could have helped me in the future. - Loma Dave: YouthBridge-NY ‘14; Adelphi University ‘18
YouthBridge-NY has been a life changing experience ever since the first moment of the retreat. The two-year fellowship allowed me to discover my passion of social justice and policy change. I was able to network with top executives, work in the Mayor's office and make long lasting friendships. Entering as a timid junior, I graduated this past spring as a confidant young woman. My personal growth is credited greatly to the YouthBridge-NY experience. As I enter college this fall, I am most grateful for the amount of opportunities and exposure YouthBridge-NY provided that has made me more prepared to enter the real world. - Monique Tinglin: YouthBridge-NY ’14; American University ‘18
Before joining Youth Bridge I had never been exposed to the amount of diversity that exists in New York. By diversity I not only mean a person’s ethnicity but also where they live in New York City. I was introduced to how going to school in the city is different than going to an all-girls high school. I also was passive when it came to group projects and discussions I wouldn’t really participate and would stay quiet for the fear of being judged. YBNY changed me and in a positive way. I honestly did not expect it at all I began to take control when being a part of a group project. I also began to speak up when it came to discussions and also network. I was no longer afraid to approach someone and it worked out because there I had a lot of help when going through the whole college application process. It definitely transformed me into a strong leader. Networking was the most important thing I learned I honestly did not know how important it was to open yourself up to people who can help you and provide great insights. I will definitely use this skill throughout my life especially in college. The second thing I learned was that as a leader there are decisions made that you just have to accept. In the grant committee I remember we had a hard time on deciding what organizations to give the grant to. However, at the end we were able to make a difference with the money and even though it was a hard decision everything worked out in the end. I had an amazing time at YBNY and I didn’t realize it till now but I really grew from the retreat to our last celebration. It was great to meet so many teenagers like me from all over the city who I’ve bonded with. My favorite meeting was when we went to see the disabled citizens. Before that meeting I had no idea how hard it was for them and this is the reason why YBNY is so amazing because it introduces you to things you would never realize happen in New York City. Thank you also for teaching me about everything that goes into the grant process. YBNY is an amazing eye-opening experience for any teen leader in NYC. - Kiran Kaul: YB-NY '14; Cornell University '18
Coming from a relatively sheltered community in Brooklyn, I was naturally apprehensive about joining a program whose participants would be so different from myself. During the meetings, workshops and seminars at Youthbridge, however, I learned that most differences between teens are superficial; deeper down we all have similar goals, values and interests. Thanks to Youthbridge, I feel more confident with regards to making friends and handling real-world issues, especially in an academic and work environment. - Akiva Blander: YB-NY '11; McGill University '16
Empowered by the tremendous workplace foundation I received during my YouthBridge-NY Fellowship, I am currently working as a campus reporter for FOX News’ collegiate affiliate, FNCU. I participated in the Engaging Workplace Diversity program as a YouthBridge-NY Fellow in 2008-2009. Part of that program entailed a six-month summer internship, which I spent at Fox News. I spent the next three summers returning to FOX and building on that first initial internship.Four years later, I am currently working at delivering my own interesting and compelling content in a stimulating form. I bring FOX’s viewer attention to the amazing activity at Columbia University and draw upon my skills at script drafting, footage compressing and programming that I learned from my four summer internships at Fox. I act the part of roving reporter, preparing my commentary and getting a rare glimpse into the Columbia University scene’s attention-grabbing stories and on-location events. I credit YouthBridge-NY‘s uncompromising commitment to cultivating and training the leaders of tomorrow for helping me, in particular, recognize and develop my potential as a broadcast journalist-Jacqueline Bryk, YB-NY '09; Columbia University ‘13
I joined YouthBridge-NY in 2006. One of my friends from school told me about a leadership and diversity program he was part of. I asked him about the application process and he told me it had passed already and I should wait for next year. However, I would not take no for an answer and decided to call the people in charge until they let me join. After the 3rd or 4th phone call they decided to interview me and allowed me to join the program.This was one of the best choices of my life. Not only did I make great friends and professional contacts, but more importantly, I gained valuable leadership skills that I put into effect every day of my life. I learned the true value of diversity in the workplace as well as how to interact with CEO's and government officials in order to build connections that will help pave the road for a brighter future.Overall, my experience with YouthBridge-NY was incredible. So much so, that I am now working with CAUSE-NY and am part of the YouthBridge-NY staff. - Santiago Mueckay: YB-NY '09;
Macaulay Honors Program at Baruch College '13
As a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, I have had many valuable experiences over the past 3 years. I can't help but think of the influence YouthBridge-NY has helped in shaping those experiences. Most concretely, YouthBridge provided me with my first internship, an incredible paid opportunity working for New York City Council, which has led to other career opportunities. More importantly though, YouthBridge gave me the leaderships skills, confidence and poise to lead multiple student organizations at my school while at the same time teaching me how not only respect but connect with peers who come from vastly different backgrounds, I still have close friends at other schools that I made through YouthBridge with whom I keep in touch and we share a deep commitment to understanding diversity and honing leadership. Overall, YouthBridge enhanced my high school experience through providing tangible assets for leadership development and community building which have shaped who I am to this day. - Sam Gersten: YB-NY'10; University of Pennsylvania '14
Youthbridge was an exciting time during my Senior year, that I still think about today. Not only did I get a chance to meet some of the bright emerging leaders from across NYC but we were able to visit and explore some amazing spots all around the city. For example, one of the personal highlights for me was getting the chance to visit Gracie Mansion for an event where Michael Bloomberg was honoring Israel's Independence day. It was such a unique opportunity that I do not believe will come again soon (if ever). It is awesome that years down the road I can still say I got the chance to meet some great people, and be invited to events that most high-schoolers (let alone adults) rarely get the chance to participate.
- Lyubov Zeylikman: YB-NY '08; Carnegie Mellon University '12
As a sophomore at Yale, I can reflect back to four years ago when I just joined YouthBridge-NY. I wasn't sure what kind of community program I wanted to join, and so I searched for broad terms such as outreach and leadership programs. At first I could not conceptualize what leadership training meant and what kind of lessons Youthbridge-NY had to offer. With the guidance of YouthBridge-NY coordinators, we learned to plan events such as high school conferences, write funding proposals, and work with other non-profit organizations. After meeting with other non-profit organizations in New York City, I was impressed by the network of activists working to make an impact on their community. By networking with these community activists, I was able to reach out and invite a speaker to Yale's Asian American Student's Alliance high school conference. As the current co-moderator of the Asian American Student's Alliance (AASA) I wanted to invite a veteran community activist to inspire high school students to initiate a positive change in their communities. One of my goals as the co-moderator of AASA is to spread awareness of political issues in the Asian American community. I am appreciative of the experience that I gained from being a YouthBridge-NY Fellow. - Stella Cao: YN-NY '10; Yale '14
All my life, I believed that leadership was an innate quality, a natural gift bestowed on the charismatic, the articulate, the eloquent, and the cultured. As a stereotypically bookish, introverted, awkward, and tonguetwisted Asian-American boy, I'd long since consigned myself to being a follower. In spite of this skepticism, I applied and was accepted to the program. And fortunately, my beliefs about leadership were proven very, very wrong. It wasn't long before I understood that leadership is earned and cultivated. It doesn't necessarily belong to the individual who talks the prettiest or the loudest. It belongs to the individual who is motivated to do what others are unwilling or unable to do. And YouthBridge-NY provided me so many opportunities to cultivate this skill, whether it was asking me to make a public statement at Borough Hall on behalf of youth against an awful hate crime…or giving my input real weight in a grantmaking process. Had YouthBridge-NY not encouraged me to always step up and take charge, I likely would have been content going through high school in relative anonymity. Instead, I was inspired to dream big and become more, and that made all the difference. - Victor Wong: YB-NY '07; Harvard University '11
I entered the program as an awkward, reserved sophomore with little sense of what it meant to be a leader and how to make a difference within my community. I remember how anxious I felt during the first meeting and can still feel the palpable embarrassment running through me when it was my turn to speak. Fast forward two years and I have changed dramatically, through the guidance of passionate staff members and activities attuned to my interests. Gone is the pimply teenager spooked by his own voice, replaced instead by a leader brimming with self-confidence and possessing the necessary tools to achieve whatever I set my mind to. The best thing about YouthBridge-NY is that it has something for everyone. For me, it was getting the chance to meet prominent members of the city…and learning about local and global issues. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most inspiring and interesting people in my life, many of whom I still have the pleasure of calling my friends today. My time there was invaluable, and I can only imagine it growing and becoming more impactful in the coming years. I am truly excited to see the amazing things the program will accomplish next. - Sean Wong:
YB-NY '10; Columbia University '14