Bridger Updates (by Erin Krebs)
These past couple months of the Bridgers’ lives have been extremely busy. With college applications, scholarship deadlines, and the consistent and progressive movement towards the culmination of our high school careers, we have all been particularly connected as a group. We’ve lamented writing essays together and celebrated acceptances together; this time has only demonstrated how close-knit and supportive we have become as a team. YouthBridge-NY has tried to take the “scary” element out of this seemingly nebulous transition in our lives through informative and gripping sessions that have taught us exactly how we will employ our skills as leaders on a more adult-level. The specificity and relaxed environment have been great for our experience. With help from inspiring advocates at Citizen’s Committee for Children, we expanded our knowledge of advocacy and learned concrete tools about how to conduct research. We also explored how we can contact and collaborate with our state and national government to expand the impact of our actions. In December, we hung out with the enthused forces behind Do Something. Do Something is a non-profit that has been present in many of the Bridgers lives because it utilizes social media to encourage youth to respond to prevalent issues through nationwide campaigns/grants. Do Something reminded us of the tools we readily have access to and our session consisted of some brainstorming between Bridgers and Do Something employees, as well as a discussion about the multitude of paths we can take in life that can still incorporate service and community consciousness. Our last meeting at Allianz was very swanky and was titled the “Roundtable to Jumpstart Your Career.” Bridgers networked by continuing to establish themselves as vibrant, compassionate young people in New York City. This event brought together professionals, including YouthBridge-NY board members from all over NYC whose greatest interests were our futures, our questions, and our abilities. We participated in “speed-mentoring” and rotated from professional to professional to discuss different elements of professional life such as resume building and interview skills. We even discussed how best to adjust to college life through the establishing of mentors and support systems. Many Bridgers benefited from learning about the concept of creating one’s professional “brand.” We are so grateful to all of the NYC professionals who have supported and educated us in the past few months and for all the ways that YouthBridge-NY has enriched our high school lives.
Skill-Building Workshop Updates (by Kelvin Ma)
In the past few Skill-Building Workshops at YouthBridge-NY, a diverse amount of speakers have visited us. For example, in November, Luanna Azulay, program director at Hillel at Baruch College, came to talk to us about the power of networking. We participated in many activities among one another to explore the benefits and power of networking. She explained how in just 30 seconds, one can make a powerful impression that could get someone to be interested in what one is talking about. Networking is an extremely important tool in life because it is what allows one to spread him or herself out to the world.
Another speaker that came was Ivy Cohen, one of the board members of YouthBridge-NY, who came to teach us about marketing. In this lesson, we learned about how marketing affects everyone because how one advertises something affects how the consumer will respond to that product. Each advertisement, she explained, had a specific audience that it is targeting and it’s the creator of the advertisement’s job to make it as appealing as possible in order to lure people to its product. The “crash course” she taught was very interesting.
The most interesting experience so far, however, was the visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Manhattan. The museum is all about tolerance and its development throughout time. One may think they know tolerance, and that he or she is a tolerant person, but this visit would prove them wrong. Everyone, whether they want to or not, would judge someone when they first see them. For example, when a new student comes into a class, every student in the class would judge the new person and whether or not they want to be friends with them. The museum had videos and activities that showed how people right now are oblivious to the intolerant acts around the world. Nobody is aware of all the websites and groups that express their hatred among certain groups. The museum taught everyone a very valuable lesson that it's up to us to stop judging and start accepting one another.
Cultural Eye Committee Update (by Ayanna Joseph)
As the year progressed, the Fellows in the Cultural Eye Committee have started working on their personal projects, discovering more about their communities and themselves. The round-table styled monthly meetings, with the Cultural Eye family, are filled with constructive criticism and laughs. As we share our pictures we took in the past month at our meetings we discuss photography techniques such as the rule of thirds, perspective, contrast and exposure. These pictures range from Brooklyn record shops, snow covered backyards, architecture in Jerusalem, to streets of El Barrio and much more. Each photo is analyzed for composition and other photographic properties we learned from two professional photographers. In addition to the array of photos we look at during our meetings, we also look at how media is used both socially and professionally within the constructs of society. By examining excerpts of old photography collections and modern media pathways, for example sites like Humans of New York, our perceptions of New York and our perspective of diverse individuals have changed, and continue to change drastically. In the upcoming month, our skills will be put to the test as we all evaluate our best photos from our portfolios and display them at the YouthBridge-NY Night of Celebration in June. This exhibit will represent the accumulative skills we learned over the year. We, as a group, are excited to see the outcome.
Engaging Workplace Diversity Committee Update (by Mahin Rahaman)
During January, the YouthBridge-NY Fellows that got into the Engaging Workplace Diversity committee had their very anticipated first meeting! During this meeting we went through the basic overview of what this program was all about. Engaging Workplace Diversity is an internship program dedicated to helping us develop skills we need in order to excel in a professional workplace. I've done summer internships like this before, but the most interesting and unique aspect I find about this is that they introduce a diversity aspect to it. We'll not only learn the skills we need in order to become accustomed to a professional environment-- but also learn why diversity is an important asset to any workplace. I personally always believed that having diversity in the workplace is an extremely pivotal characteristic that every workplace should learn to incorporate and being involved in this committee is extremely exciting and meaningful to me. Some goals that we discussed together as a team during this meeting include to make outstanding resumes, learn to develop amazing communication skills, to figure out what area we're interested in. We want to be properly prepared and learn as many skills as we could before we're put into our professional settings so we have to make sure that we're punctual. In addition, we also learned that we'll be doing site visits in order to have an idea of the different types of professional environments. This is something new that I've actually never done before and I'm looking forward to seeing all the different types of workplaces there are, as well as meeting new people and asking them about their careers. Moreover, not only will this internship be a learning experience for us professionally, but it will also help us determine which career fields we might have a proclivity towards and which career fields are not suitable for us. We'll also be going over networking skills, communication skills, knowing what to wear depending on the business environment, and much more. Overall, I'm extremely enthusiastic about this whole experience and can't wait for our upcoming meetings with my astounding committee members!
Shared Resources Committee Update (by Yona Benjamin)
The Shared Resourced Committee has had a busy few months. After rounds of heated (but respectful) debates, we agreed upon working on grants that advocate youth health, substance abuse, and diversity. During the most recent meetings we read a series of applications that had been submitted for our consideration. We constructed a rubric and started to grade! Though the grading was often difficult we learned a lot about what types of non profits are out there. The world is full of amazing programs and we learned a lot about them. In the coming month we hope to reach a final consensus on who to give the grant to. Until then, so long from the Shared Resources Committee!
Global Nomads Group – Islamabad & New York (by Mahin Rahaman)
On October 9th, eleven YouthBridge- NY students participated in a special event hosted by Global Nomads Group (GNG), which connected YouthBridge- NY teens with peers in Islamabad, Pakistan specifically from Millennium Roots High School. GNG is an international NGO whose mission is to foster dialogue and understanding among the world's youth. When I first heard about this event, I was immediately thrilled. I've heard about Malala Yousefzai in the news and in school and I was absolutely intrigued with her story. When YouthBridge-NY presented this opportunity, I immediately said yes and had the privilege of attending a video conference hosted by GNG with students in Islamabad to talk about Malala and what she represents. While waiting for GNG to set up the conference equipment, my fellow YouthBridge-NY members and I discussed what we expected the conference to be like. I remember how much we prejudged these students-- wondering whether or not they'll be able to speak proper English, whether or not their schools looked like schools in the US, even whether or not they had a sense of humor. As you can clearly tell, we came in feeling as if we and the students from Islamabad lived in two completely different worlds. We came in thinking about all the things that could make us different and how the students in Islamabad couldn't possibly share many common characteristics with us.
We were wrong.
As soon as the conference started, everyone shared and indulged in an amazingly friendly atmosphere. Originally both sides had prepared questions to ask each other but instead, we found ourselves roaming from topic to topic on our own because we were all so genuinely interested about each other. What we ended up finding out was not all the things that made us different, but rather all the things that made us alike. The students from Millennium Roots High School shared their views on education and what a great impact Malala Yousefzai made in their country. Needless to say, their view on education was extremely similar to ours. We both believed that education is an extremely important aspect to every person and should be granted equally to all people regardless of their gender or status. Malala Yousefzai's brave actions made not only us, but the entire world realize the power of having a voice and the true value of education to those that can't access it as easily as most of us here in the US can. Contrary to the notions we originally came into the conference with, the YouthBridgers and the students from Millennium Roots High School laughed together, shared stories, discussed and agreed on important aspects regarding education, as well as explored all the things that made us alike. This experience was truly eye opening and made me realize how incredibly alike we were. We ultimately went from having this perception about two different worlds into one international community where we can all relate and help each other rise to their very best. After this experience, I tried bringing international video conferencing to my school Bronx Science because I realized the importance of conversing with students from other countries. It immediately deteriorates any false presumptions that the media or society might give us and brings us closer to coalescing into a tight-knit global community. I genuinely thank Global Nomads Group and YouthBridge-NY for giving me this amazing opportunity and making me realize the importance of reaching out to kids globally.
Volunteer Outings (by Jesse Aguilar)
Many of our members volunteer to help those less fortunate, believing that any amount of time we can give is enough to make a significant difference in someone else's life. In November, I participated in a volunteer service for the group "Habitat for Humanity". True to its name, Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit group that seeks to build and repair environments all over the city for those in need. On that day, the group planned to renovate and revitalize a community center for seniors. Besides me, several other members from YouthBridge-NY showed up to contribute, all wearing thick jackets and gloves to brave the unyielding cold. After briefly introducing ourselves to the other volunteers and Habitat for Humanity members, we set off to work in our designated areas, each person doing a small part of the big project. I, along with three other volunteers, was assigned to paint the walls for the goal of illuminating the atmosphere. We were to cover every inch of the hallway walls, which was approximately 400 square feet. It was long and hard work, not at all as easy as I had first suspected. Although I was weary and aching from using muscles I had never used before, I felt a sense of achievement whenever I looked over the work I had done. For once, I was doing something physical, and I was doing it for someone else. I could imagine the happy faces of the elderly who would return to that embellished hallway, which encouraged me to continue on. After several hours, the painstaking job was complete. My friends and I evaluated our hard work, our sweaty faces lit up with smiles.
Two weeks later, another opportunity to give my all for the community arrived. It was an opportunity known as 92Y Teensgiving, an annual event in which over 700 high school teenagers and 100 adult volunteers participate in community service projects all over NYC. Our team's assigned job was to completely renovate a park, and to replace the gravel and wood there. It was a lot harder than it sounded, as the raging winds and sub-zero temperature buffeted our shaking bodies while we struggled to move wood without sliding down the hill. But the hardship made me realize many things, how important our actions were for the good of the people who would soon use the park. There was no doubt that I would be sore later on and be forced to throw out my wood-covered t-shirt, but the satisfaction I felt was worth it. I was doing something good for others, and I wasn't alone. I had friends, comrades in arms, who had just as much conviction as I did. I left that park with sore arms and with wood chips in my shoes, but I also knew that I had friends by my side who were also volunteering their time for someone else's good. It was a moment I would never forget, that achievement and pride I felt.
Ice Skating and Movie Day (by Ellie Xu)
YouthBridge-NY hosted a mid-year winter retreat to further allow the Fellows and Bridgers to acquaint themselves with one another. Aside from all the skill-building and committee meetings, and with our minds off the seemingly interminable pile of schoolwork that comes with being a junior/senior in high school, we were able to spend the day relaxing and having a good time. First, we met at Wollman Rink to ice skate. For the past few months, I had been taking rollerblading as my physical education class in school, which led me to be under the false impression that ice-skating was similar to rollerblading. I was prepared to skate around without clinging onto the wall, but then I stepped onto the ice and I got frightened at the prospect of falling or even worse. Skating on ice did not feel nearly as stable as rollerblading on the ground. I had not ice skated for more than two years, but with the help of moral support from my peers, I gathered my courage to let go of the wall. Some of the other Fellows and Bridgers, like me, struggled at first to accustom ourselves with skating on the ice. Others, however, were relatively experienced at skating, and even knew how to do hockey stops. After skating and conversing for several hours, we went to the YouthBridge-NY office to watch a movie. Although some wanted to walk to the office, we agreed to take the train because not all of us were willing to walk a whole mile. We wanted to watch a movie, so we ended up narrowing down our selection to the following choices: The Truman Show, Coming to America, Trading Places, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. We took a vote, and Coming to America won. However, many of us had already watched it, so we ended up agreeing to watch The Truman Show instead. I had not watched this movie before, but I had enjoyed watching other movies in which Jim Carrey starred in. This movie made me ponder the issue of appearances vs. reality, while munching on pizza. The Truman Show was a very intriguing film with an original storyline. The retreat was an enjoyable experience consisting of good food and good company.