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 in the years to come.
Finding a Different Type of Family
by Abisola Akinfenwa
YouthBridge has been a gateway to opening my eyes to so many different ways of life and ways that people think. Through YouthBridge I met amazing teenagers like myself who work hard, have fun, and inspire those around them on a daily basis.
I went camping for the first time in my life and I was away from my family. But being around the other Bridgers and instructors did not make it seem like that at all. I was with another type of family, the type that even though the moments with each other were not long, I felt comfortable around them because they knew what it meant to be respectful and open to people.
I hope that everything I learned will go with me through college, and that the family I see here today will be a family I will always cherish with all my heart. Thank you guys for being as amazing as you are and never change the ability to be fearless. If I have learned anything from my peers over these years is that you gotta be the biggest cheerleader and a great hype man.
There was not a day that when I came to YouthBridge that I did not learn something new. Knowledge is powerful and overwhelming, but I learned here how to make what I know benefit my community as a whole. To end this off...there is more to the world than what meets the eye, but once you have learned to walk on the bridge to knowledge, you never know how much you may learn.
My New York City Moment
By Michael Zheng
I know this is cliché but in my time at YouthBridge:
- I have had the chance to meet extraordinary people, not only intelligent but diverse
- The people I met have become not only friends, but family.
- The list of connections from YouthBridge has not only expanded my personal network but my professional network as well (Yay Engaging Workplace Diversity!)
- The opportunities I have taken through YouthBridge are unmatched anywhere else.
Many of you may know, or not, but I moved to New York City from Alabama at the beginning of high school. Freshman and Sophomore year, I was a socially awkward, immature child. I did my work at a subpar level, went home, and played videogames for a couple hours.
Then I joined YouthBridge-NY and I had my New York City moment.
YouthBridge has shown me how to be a real person. It motivated me to change my life, to find my passions and my hobbies, and to create a personality out of myself. YouthBridge gave me one of the most important abilities to have: the ability to talk. For that, I could not be any more grateful, and I could never imagine what my life would have been without it.
For four years, I may have had lived in New York City. But my two years at YouthBridge have earned me the honor of calling myself a real New Yorker.
YouthBridge-NY Made Me Who I Am
By Ceyda Guleryuz
YouthBridge-NY let me become who I am today. A mature, proud, brave, and strong woman who knows how to talk, how to meet and greet in a professional environment not without feeling shy, but despite feeling shy.
We have had so many great workshops, met incredible people, learned amazing things, and traveled to most fascinating places that we wouldn’t otherwise travel. We came with our most incredible memories to the retreat and now we are going to college with all the great ones we have collected through YouthBridge.
One memory that still shines in my mind is when we were talking about feeling shy while making a speech and Karen told us, “sometimes I get scared to death, but everyone gets scared in front of people, the most important thing is not showing it.” And like lots of other great knowledge I gained through YouthBridge, I took it with me. These things came very handy during my internships, then my college interviews, daily life, and when I started my business. Yes, I started a business with the help of the skills I gained through YouthBridge. YouthBridge helped me to grow and I became a board member of One Project, which is a non profit organization in New Jersey that aims to connect people to help others.
YouthBridge has taught me how to have courage to do things that I didn’t know, showed me how to step into a path I have never seen. But above all, it made it possible for me to build great relationships with most amazing people, who helped me through my life.
So, I wanted to thank all of you for making it possible for me to be a part of YouthBridge and for who I am today. Thank you.
My Favorite Place
By Brittany Mendoza
Everyone has their place or hobby that they can look forward to. No one ever needed to guess mine... YouthBridge and singing. All my friends would see me in a great mood those days and I'd get to explain that I was going to that monthly Youthbridge meeting. It was funny to me that no matter how much I gushed it didn't stick in their brains like their phones stick to their hands.
Before I joined the fellowship I was a debater and on student government, but despite having public speaking skills I was quiet most times. I was just following the motions of others without being enough of a leader myself. Of course look at me now and I'm a lot less quiet but I still like to listen to those around me before speaking.
Being surrounded by so many strong minded teens made things diverse in ideas and methods. I will always remember the boat exercise we did with Don Kao. In brief words we had 14 people to save and a boat that could fit 10. Well some groups just chose who was the “most worthy” and moved on. Not us. The group I was in managed to somehow not save anyone.
These meetings allowed me to meet some of my best friends. My two foodie friends know who they are. There was also someone that I knew from College Now but became friends through YouthBridge showing me just how important connections are and how long they last.
My time here has been amazing and even though that WhatsApp chat didn't work out I have no intention of losing contact with you all. It’s a "see you later" type of send off not a goodbye. I can't wait to see where all of us end up.
Stepping out of the comfort zone
By Amy Ren
The first time I felt out-of-this-world proud of an accomplishment was last summer, when my Engaging Workplace Diversity partner, Netanel, and I won the Entrepreneurship Competition. It was such a big deal to us. We spent hours video-chatting trying to come up with a solid business plan, hours rehearsing our pitch, hours picking out a nice outfit for the big day.
The second time was at this year’s Youth Summit, where I surprised myself by signing up to do opening remarks. It was a short speech but I was proud.
YouthBridge has done this magical thing to me. It has given me so much experience and so much more confidence. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have volunteered to give a speech and I didn’t have anything I was super proud of. Today, I am standing in front of a room of incredible and lovely people, teens like myself and adults I look up to. It is so crazy to me.
I wanted to thank my fellow Bridgers for being a part of this program with me. You guys have influenced me and moved me in unforeseen ways. I go to a high school where 70% of the student population is Asian. It was always comfortable, but sometimes comfortable isn’t the way to go. YouthBridge has introduced me to students from all over NYC, all different socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities. I always look forward to learning about how different yet alike we all are. The people I have met have taught me so much, things that I wouldn’t have learned within the four walls of a classroom.
I am so incredibly grateful for this program, the people I have met, the opportunities it has opened up for me. And so, with all that said, I wish you all the best of luck, the best of health, the best of street snacks and happy days, and the best of the best. Because you all deserve it. Thank you.
Abisola Akinfenwa Davida Krauss Markia Neufville Christy Atangana Wendy Lau Victor Podvalny Ashley Bisram Marcus Lerner Amy Ren Margalit Braginsky Eric Li Matthew Roberts Eliyakol Djokoto Jada Lindo Nickala Stephens Alyssa Garraway Jared Lopez Jia Yi Sun Ceyda Guleryuz Caden Macdonald Dell Wednesdae Tangente Ayelet Kalfus Bilitte Mana Ellery Weiner Netanel Kamel Charlize Marinez Jaclyn Wildes Ishika Kasliwal Brittany Mendoza Michael Zheng