Below are some reflections from our graduated Bridgers about their time in the Fellowship. We want to wish a hearty congratulations to all of our graduated Seniors, it has been a pleasure knowing each and every one of you, and we cannot wait to see all that you accomplish!
from retreat to a world of opened doors
By Hawa Drame
YouthBridge-NY is a nonprofit leadership development organization that convenes, trains, and prepares young people to meet the challenges of an extremely diverse New York City" and it did just that!
I remember the first day of the retreat. I came in upset because my bagel wasn't toasted and I was starving. Once we got on the bus I automatically placed my headphones in my ear and the bus drove off. We started with ice breakers but I wasn't in the mood to participate. I remember Jelani asking me, "what's your favorite movie?" "I don't have any." I said annoyed. "What's your favorite song?" He asked. "I don't have one," I said, annoyed again. What a bus ride.
Once we arrived at this unfamiliar area I knew I had to put the bagel aside. My first friends were Chaaya and Justin and we complained about the lack of service. But if it wasn't for no service I would have never met Amya, Baldino, Eric, Tahany, Matt, Jordan, Samantha, Roland, Arifa, Gabi, Hannah, Emily, Zarif, and Molly, and soon after, Kristina, Ethan, Celine, and Michelle.
Build bridges and not walls, that's what YouthBridge is all about, where diverse teens become tomorrow's leaders. I live in Harlem, a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, when I came to YouthBridge, it was like these doors opened up to a world with endless opportunities. I came from a middle school where people like me were the majority, then transitioned to a high school where I was the minority of the population; it wasn't an easy transition. For freshman and sophomore year without YouthBridge I realized the school was very cliquey, but the moment I joined YouthBridge, attended the group workshops, and filled my body with the sugary snacks, I knew there had to be change. I helped organize student councils, town halls, forums, a place where everyone can share their grievances and trust each other. Implemented cultural day into spirit week so everyone can appreciate and observe other cultures. Last summer I visited the major buildings of Washington D.C and without these workshops I would've never seen myself sitting in the White House, the House of Representatives, meeting senators from around the country, asking questions to the dept of education. Youth bridge gave me skills, inspiration and hope.
From that first retreat until this very day and into the future, I learned that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that every door has endless opportunities. I just want to give a special thanks to Karen, the founders and everyone that helped built youth bridge for allowing me to fulfill my body with sugar but most importantly for the help of shaping me into this young black young lady that I am today.
Its not goodbye...
By Amya Stewart
There was this feeling, one that I would get twice a month. This feeling of solace and content. Every conversation, every question. We all brought something to the table. We fellows built a bond. One that led to plenty of laughs and inside jokes, snap streaks, and commencements of standing in front of buildings.
YouthBridge sparked a change in my life. The start of an affinity. That feeling that I got as a beginning fellow, has followed me the last two years. I thank YouthBridge for the friendships I've made that I hope will last my lifetime, for introducing me to other non-profits that stand and advocate for the same things I do, and for expressing the importance of networking and character building. But what I thank YouthBridge most for, is making me realize the importance of connection. I have connected with individuals here I never would've met. All from different backgrounds, boroughs, religions and ethnicities. We've come together. Now we're Bridgers and the time has come for us to say not goodbye, but until next time.
Three words, countless memories:
By Baldino Baldeo
I want to express my enjoyment as a YouthBridge Member by using 3 words. I know we’ve been in the program for two years and you may think that I can do better than three words, but trust me on this. Those words are Growth, Family, and Future.
Before being apart of YouthBridge I struggled with myself, I simply knew I was different, which at the time equaled bad, weird, or whatever word a high schooler could come up with to belittle me. Shortly after being apart of YouthBridge I came to know that I was different, and that’s just the way I wanted to be. I was strong leader, and YouthBridge allowed to see that.
Family came naturally, we helped one another grow and even saw a little of ourselves in each other. Although we are a big family, we work on ourselves. We understand there is no “I” in team, but that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link.” I love my whole YouthBridge family, but I found my sister, best friend, soul-mate, someone who makes me feel whole, happy and complete, and I would even do this journey all over again just because of the awesome times we’ve had -- Amya C. Stewart, you’ve played the most important part in my growth so lets see what our future holds.
Talking about future, every single moment in YouthBridge has paved the path towards my future. I’ve been introduced to and equipped with the skills of public speaking, human rights, self-exploration, and networking, just to name a few. I am no longer afraid of the future because of the amazing valuable skills and trainings that I’ve received from YouthBridge-NY and once again I would like to say thank you, thank you, thank you to you all.
YouthBridge Taught me to choose love
By Celine Agard
There is so much YouthBridge has done for me in terms of networking with inspiring leaders, making the most lit friends I’ve ever met, exploring different parts of NYC and supplying me with food from all those meetings. But becoming a member of this diverse family has taught me that accepting others and choosing love over contempt is a vital characteristic that many people in this world don’t have. It’s unfortunate that every time we listen to the news, acts of terrorism, violence, and prejudice, whether international or domestic, engulf our lives. People fail to open their eyes and accept a changing world, they stick to their own perceptions instead of observing all aspects of a situation, and that ignorance develops into hate, which ultimately leads to destruction.
Before YouthBridge there were many things I wasn’t open to and simply didn’t know. However from the first meeting I was eager to let YouthBridge make a change in me and open my eyes. But, as I became friends with my many peers I learned that yes, people may be different than me through culture, race, religion, sexuality, but by listening to them, the struggles they go through, the circumstances they’ve overcome, dreams they have, their talents, the way they want to drive our generation in a better direction, it made me realize that at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you were taught at home, because we are all the same.
Our monthly sessions at YouthBridge with Karen, Rebecca, and Don Kao, just to name a few, gave me opportunities to take part in engaging activities, speak about my personal insecurities, learn how to look at every perspective before judging others, and converse about different issues that engulf our communities. YouthBridge has made me realize that we have to give back to our communities by loving one another, lending a helping hand, standing up for what’s right, accepting people who are different and combating hatred through understanding and peace.
Soon I’ll be entering college and I don’t know where life will take me, hopefully you’ll see my name on TV and I’ll be making 6 figures. I know entering the real world will bring about many challenges, but with the great skills that YouthBridge has taught me I hope to strive to be an influencer of peace and tranquility, always remembering that no matter how different people are, we must choose to love if we want to combat the social challenges of this world.
Arifa Abid Jordan Chan Matt Indar
Celine Agard Lydia Diebel Eric Krebs
Kristina Bajic Hawa Drame Emily Ma
Baldino Baldeo Roland Fang Zarif Mahmud
Ethan Benedek Samantha Gendler Tahany Moosa
Molly Blaustein Chaaya Grazette Michelle Padilla
Gabriella Cantor Jelani Green Justin Spears Hannah Hoff Amya Stewart