Fall 2014

 YouthBridge-NY Takes on Teensgiving (by Alexus Knight)

       On a cold, cloudy November 16 morning, the 92nd Street Y had a line that wrapped around its building filled with youth from all around waiting to get inside. Why on a cold Sunday would teenagers be getting out of their warm beds to wait in the cold on line? And who were these teens? These teenagers were high schoolers from all around the New York Metropolitan area. These teens were at the 92nd Street Y because of Teensgiving. Teensgiving is an annual event sponsored by the 92nd Street Y where teens from a variety of high schools come together to work on various community service activities throughout New York City. Despite the weather, these high schoolers and fortunately YouthBridge were able to take part in this annual tradition of giving back to the community. Hence where the word “Teensgiving” comes from; teens from New York City dedicate their own time to assist communities that need assistance on certain things such as special needs individuals, cleaning up New York City parks or in the 92nd Street Y building itself. In compensation for their hard work, teens receive 6 hours of community service credit and a sense of pride and happiness for what they have done.  Regardless of what task was given, YouthBridge pledged to make sure that as a group our goal was to help those who really need it or for temporary instances.

       On Teensgiving, YouthBridge was sent to Riverside Valley Community Garden located in West Harlem. At arrival, YouthBridge and other high schoolers were greeted by park operators Jenny and her husband. Our task assigned was to rake leaves in the park’s walking areas. Although it may seem to be very minimal work, it took a numerous amount of work to as there was many leaves. In the spirit of Teensgiving, not just as YouthBridge. but as a group in entirety help each other complete the task. During the day, we bonded over the simplest things despite coming from different schools. Fellows and Bridgers also had the time to bond with each other since the retreat in August. Three Bridgers that attended the event were Yona Benjamin, Henry Liu and Kiara Jordan. Some Fellows that participated were Eme Chan, Ariel Inker, Eva Rose Spier, Sarah Rebarber and Alexus Knight. 

       After 2 or 3 hours at the site, we finally completed our task and or role in Teensgiving. The group was greatly appreciated by Jenny and her husband who welcomed us back anytime. Even though Teensgiving is once a year, that should not be the only time as youth that we should volunteer. When you can, volunteer in your community or an area that desperate it needs help. Just because we are young, that doesn’t mean that we cannot make a difference in the city that we live in to make it better. Whether you did the event for the 6 hours of community service (which is a major plus!) or for your own passion of volunteering, it is still important that we made a difference no matter how big or small. This idea encapsulate the whole idea of YouthBridge NY which is to help inform or use hands-on skills to make a different New York City that is more diversified and that makes sure that no community gets left behind. I hope that if YouthBridge attends Teensgiving 2015 that more of us in this community attends to create stronger bonds with each other but to also keep the city a great place to be. Happy Teensgiving and Thanksgiving Everybody!

Bridgers' "Diversity on Campus" kickoff panel (by Banelle Mana)

Current Bridgers speak with a panel of YBNY alumni about their college experiences.  From left: Seth Wittman (YBNY '05), Nancy Trujillo (YBNY '08), and Laura Halperin (YBNY '10).

Current Bridgers speak with a panel of YBNY alumni about their college experiences. From left: Seth Wittman (YBNY '05), Nancy Trujillo (YBNY '08), and Laura Halperin (YBNY '10).

It’s the first Bridger meeting of the year. We all come from our various corners of New York City, tired from school but eager for the valuable knowledge that awaits us. Excited to see each other, we chatter casually about our current projects, dilemmas, and deadlines. Keep in mind that the typical YouthBridge-NY member is involved in the community, be it community service, participating or leading in clubs, or even playing a role in a community action plan.

The topic of the evening is college diversity. The night consists of an informal Q&A with 3 college (and YouthBridge!) alumni. The conversation is interactive and relevant as we have our questions honestly answered. And of course, our eyes opened to the true reality of diversity on campus. It is a matter deeper than the representation of different ethnic backgrounds. There's diversity of thought, beliefs and even experiences. The meeting overall gives us a great step ahead in tackling the college application process.

Fellows: Skill-building Updates (by Chris Collado)


The past two skill building workshops were wonderful learning experiences. I have learned so much about the state I live in and how to give a flawless public presentation. 

In the first skill building workshop I learned about New York's diversity and the interaction of cultures through power point presentations and fun activities. It was great to know that New York is accepting to all cultures and races. 

The second skill building workshop primarily focused on public speaking. I learned about what and what not to say during public speaking, how my posture should be, how to control my nerves, and have a calm and confident tone in my speaking. During the whole workshop every Fellow gave a 60-90 second speech about themselves or their lives, and at the end of their speech the other Fellows and Marsha Haygood, the instructor for this skill building workshop, gave constructive criticism to whoever gave their speech. I would like to thank Ms. Haygood for taking the time to help all the Fellows with public speaking and how to be more professional. I now feel more prepared for whenever I have to do public speaking and also learned how to be more professional when speaking to others.

Cultural Eye Committee Update (by Grace Gribbon)

One of Grace Gibbon's first Cultural Eye photos. "I will always identify myself as a proud New Yorker, and the city will always hold a special place in my heart. I believe NYC has helped shape my personality and my experiences, and no matter where I may travel, New York will remain my true home," says Grace.

One of Grace Gibbon's first Cultural Eye photos. "I will always identify myself as a proud New Yorker, and the city will always hold a special place in my heart. I believe NYC has helped shape my personality and my experiences, and no matter where I may travel, New York will remain my true home," says Grace.

YouthBridge’s Cultural Eye group has had a great kickoff as we begin to work with each other and our cameras to express various themes through a lens. Cultural Eye is an expressive and creative group where we are working on taking elements from our environment and trying to express what we want others to see. The first meeting helped us begin to understand the mechanical aspect of our cameras with the help of professional photographer Brian Schildhorn, founder of 5 Pin Studios. We learned all about shutter, zoom, lighting, as well as how we can use different techniques to add variation to our photos. In addition, the group has been assigned personal tasks of photographing different themes. We have taken photos that we think help identify ourselves, and for the next meeting we must do the same for identifying our family. These assignments have not only helped develop our skills as expressive photographers, but have also helped members become more familiar and comfortable with each other. Towards the end of the year each group member will get to showcase three of their photos based upon a theme we have all decided upon and proceeds of sold photos go towards YouthBridge! It is going to be a very exciting and positive year for the Cultural Eye group, and I can’t wait for the coming meetings!

YouthBridge-NY Paints with CITYarts

On September 29, YouthBridge-NY partnered with CITYarts to help paint a mural at a community center in Manhattan, beautifying the area for local children and residents. 

YouthBridge-NY volunteers at the CITYarts mural in Manhattan on September 29. From left: Alexus Knight, Lianna Brenner (staff), Camille Smalling, Banelle Mana, Anish Gosala, Karen Lander (staff). Not pictured: Darren Lin.

Spotlight on YouthBridge-NY Alumna: Nancy Trujillo (YB-NY '08)

YouthBridge-NY: What do you do at Futuro Media Group? How long have you been at Futuro, and how did you get there?

Nancy Trujillo: I am the Executive Office Coordinator at Futuro. This coming January it will be my 3rd year with the organization. I have always been fortunate to meet great people in my life that have connected me with different opportunities, a great skill I learned at YouthBridge-NY- NETWORKING! I met Maria Hinojosa at the end of my high school career and started working with her children. As the years went by she reached out to me and asked if I knew of anyone interested in an assistant position or if i was interested. I took the opportunity and the rest is history.

YBNY: What is the best part about working there? 

NT: The best part about working at Futuro has to be the amazing people I have been honored and humbled to meet and interact with. I work directly with everyone and through that I have been able to genuinely get to know my co-workers. The organization is small so my voice is heard and taken into account. It is an amazing feeling to find a place where you are valued and listened to.

YBNY: Are there any specific projects you work on that you really love and can tell us more about?

NT: We produce radio and television, well the producers do. I really love when I get to be the producer of time. I love and appreciate it because it was one of the hardest things to learn to do well - to organize and manage someone else's calendar like I do for my boss, Maria. I've made the big mistakes I needed to never make them again. It truly has been a learning experience. 

YBNY: How did your time as a YouthBridge fellow help prepare you for your work now?

NT: YouthBridge-NY prepared me for life. Thus far it has been all about building, maintaining, and understanding your connections. Throughout my years with YouthBridge-NY I gained a confidence of owning my voice, of voicing my opinions, of asking for what I want and need, to give back. I experienced my first real summer internship, I was made responsible and accountable, and best of all - I shared and lived those experiences with amazing human beings and now 6 years after becoming an alumni I see my fellow alumni and the new students passing through the program as part of of the same sister and brotherhood. I know and feel like we are all going to change the world, within our own capacities and skills. We have it very ingrained in who we are to make this world a better place.

YBNY: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

NT: 10 years from now I will be 34 years old... where do I see myself? I am curious to find out. I want to keep on giving back, to keep on learning, and most of all traveling. 

Volunteering at the "America By the Numbers" launch with Futuro Media Group (by Marcella Morales-Lugo)

Marcella (YB-NY '16), Mahin (YB-NY '15), and Karen working the sign-in table at the launch of "America By the Numbers."

Marcella (YB-NY '16), Mahin (YB-NY '15), and Karen working the sign-in table at the launch of "America By the Numbers."

When I heard about the opportunity to volunteer at the Ford Foundation with Futuro Media Group I was immediately interested! The event looked really prevalent to what YouthBridge is about and this made it even more intriguing to help out. When I arrived at the Ford Foundation I was very intimidated because I know that the Ford Foundation is very well known and "works mainly by making grants or loans that build knowledge and strengthen organizations and networks."  Fortunately I was welcomed by big smiles. Nancy Trujillo (YB-NY '08) was one of those big smiles. She made me feel very comfortable and I felt like I was having fun while doing business. The event was so awesome! There were so many different people and I got to meet every single one of them because I was working the front desk and greeted every person that walked in. I met CEO’s, celebrities and a lot of company representatives. This opportunity gave me a lot of exposure to the realm of communications and showed me that making connections with people can really benefit you in the long run. This experience was so great and I am glad that Nancy organized this event because she was a pleasure to work with! Also thank you to YouthBridge for giving me such a wonderful opportunity.

Shared Resources for a Shared Future: Meeting #2 (by Adie Present)

The focus of our second committee meeting was to learn communication skills and skills that will help us come to agree on organizations to give our 2,000 dollars. We began by learning about active listening. Active listening is a way of showing understanding of what you just heard through responses and body language. The goal of active listening is to avoid misunderstandings and to create an environment conducive to sharing. We learned that a common way to do this is for one to repeat or summarize the main points the speaker said and ask him or her if you understood correctly. We were then able to practice active listening with a partner to see how we would put this skill that we just learned to use in everyday conversations. It was interesting to note that as a group we almost unanimously agreed that this form of active listening seemed awkward and unconventional for a one on one conversation. But, we all agreed that active listening would be very helpful for larger conversations. We realized that it will help us as a group when it comes time for all of us to come to a consensus regarding which organizations we would like to give our 2,000 dollars to.

Our next goal was to learn about consensus, what they are, and how to reach one. This was done in order to prepare us for the group consensus we will eventually have to come to. One of the most interesting points we discussed was that coming to a real consensus does not just mean everyone says “yes,” it means that everyone must say “yes” and mean it. It is important to differentiate between people who just say “yes” to end the dispute versus people who were genuinely persuaded to change their mind. We learned that one of the key elements to building a consensus is making sure none of the options are associated with people. This is done in order to ensure that in the end no one feels like they lost or won. I personally found this to be one of the more interesting points we discussed because it’s implying that there is a psychological aspect to consensus building not just a logical aspect.

We also learned about the ideal conditions for a consensus to be made and what we could do if there is a situation where reaching a consensus seems impossible. We discussed that having a facilitator helps bring about a consensus faster and in a more organized manner.

Just a few of the social justice causes that our Shared Resources fellows are passionate about...

Just a few of the social justice causes that our Shared Resources fellows are passionate about...

Lastly, we were able to test all the skills we had just picked up through a consensus reaching activity. We each had a list of fourteen big issues in our communities and had to personally rank our top five issues. We were then split into three groups of five and each group had to come to a consensus about what the group believed were the top five issues. The goal of this exercise was to prepare us for what coming to a consensus actually entails, and to give us the opportunity the practice using the skills we had just leaned. While taking turns trying to change each other’s minds, we practiced active listening to show our peers that we understood what they were trying to say, but we just disagreed. Also, each member of the group took a turn being the facilitator. Remarkably, many people found that their time as facilitator was the most challenging part of the activity, because, as facilitator, one had to sit quietly without sharing their opinion. My group in particular decided after about 15 minutes that we would not use a facilitator because we found that we were a small enough group and were able to manage without one. My group also discovered that many of us had similar top five choices, which made it much easier for us to come to calm, quick consensus. On the contrary, we heard some groups, all the way on the other side of the room, screaming in disagreement! Overall I think that the exercise was extremely helpful in preparing us for what is to come, and I believe that when it comes time for us to reach our actual consensus we will be able to do so in a calm, civilized manner thanks to all the preparation we were given and will continue to receive.