Fall 2015

Fellows Find their Directions
by Gabi Cantor

Just a few weeks after meeting each other at the retreat, the fellows came together for their first brainstorming meeting. The meeting, which was led by Karen and Haley, focused on leadership styles and culture.

We began with an icebreaker. To learn more about each other, each fellow shared something personal about themselves that others wouldn’t at first glance. After our icebreaker, we discussed the Diversity Iceberg Model. Then, we discussed different types of leaders. To find out what our own leadership styles are, we filled out a quiz. Each person’s answers to the quiz revealed the direction to which his or her “leadership compass” pointed. I discovered that I have West leadership qualities, because I am practical and like to base my decisions on data analysis and logic. After learning our results, each “direction” formed a group in their corresponding spot of the room to discuss their direction’s advantages and disadvantages, as well as how they are perceived by others. Then, the direction groups came together to share what they had discussed. I found this activity to be the most interesting part of the meeting. While I knew we were a diverse group, it was somewhat surprising that was so much variation in leadership styles. Seeing the diversity in our leadership styles was intriguing for me because it showed that even in small groups there can be great diversity. This activity helped us learn more about each other and the different ways we address problems. Lastly, the “directions” discussion helped us compare how we think we are perceived and how we are in fact viewed by others. 

...this activity highlighted how people can misinterpret other cultures and how differences among people can make it hard to communicate.

After discussing how different leadership styles are interpreted, we addressed how different cultures are viewed by others. First, we looked at optical illusion pictures to demonstrate how we all see things differently. Then, we read definitions of culture and described how people see other cultures through the lens of their own culture. Next, to make this concept more concrete we played the “Colorful Cultures Game.” In this game, each fellow received a colored card that described a culture (hence the name). However, the “cultures” weren’t the cultures with which we were generally familiar. The cards didn’t give a nationality or religion; rather, they stated strange characteristics. For instance, on one card color, the “culture” was to only shake hands using your left hand and to avoid making eye contact. Other cards said to be rude or nice to a certain color.  After reading about our culture, we were given five minutes to act as our cards told us to and to interact with the other cultures. The five minutes were full of confusion and laughter. After settling back into our seats and ceasing to act out our assigned culture, we discussed what we had learned from the activity. Fellows found that in some instances what they had interpreted as mean behavior was really someone trying to be nice, and vice versa. In addition to being very entertaining, this activity highlighted how people can misinterpret other cultures and how differences among people can make it hard to communicate.

To apply the ideas we had discussed and to conclude the meeting, we learned about New York’s diversity. This was very interesting for me because I often hear that New York is very diverse, but I had never really learned what that meant numerically. We looked at maps of populations and ethnicities all over New York City. One observation I found particularly thought-provoking was that although New York is as a whole diverse, within most of its neighborhoods there is very little diversity. The fellows’ first meeting was a success.  We learned a lot and are looking forward to meeting again!

Bridgers come out of the closet
by Keyara Drew

For the month of October and November, the Bridgers’ meetings took place at Project Reach. At Project Reach, we had two interactive workshops with Don Kao, our facilitator. The first workshop was on diversity and discrimination where we talked about race and society. The highlight of the night was when we were given a list of 14 people that had different characteristics, like a pregnant black women, a Jehovah’s witness, and a Korean market owner, just to name a few. With this list we could only choose 10 people to get on the boat, which means we had to leave behind 4. We worked in groups of 4 to determine who should go in the boat and who shouldn't. Each group all had different reasons for leaving behind people. One group even left everybody behind (my group, of course). Upon observing each other's works we noticed some similarities in who we were leaving behind. But, what we didn't notice was the discrimination taking place. We all discriminated against the people written on the index cards as if we knew them personally. We had set their destiny just from a title. 

In the second meeting, we discussed homophobia within our communities and how they related to our personal lives. For the majority of my life, I have been sheltered from topics like sexuality because I grew up with the norm that you were just straight. No questions asked. But, upon sitting and listening to my peers at this meeting, I noticed that everyone experiences sexuality at different points in their lives and feels differently about it as well. For a portion of the meeting, you were partnered with someone to discuss several questions: “What makes people straight?” “When was the first time you experienced talks of sexuality different from your own?” and “Why is being straight the norm?” My partner, the amazing Karen Lander, and I went back and forth discussing these questions and while doing so questions arise. Why is it that nobody ever questions why someone is straight? How come people don't have negative thoughts about straight people? What makes loving someone the same gender as you so wrong?

We, as people, tend to most of the time leave people out, accidentally, because we don’t know anything about them or don’t ask questions... I hope everyone feels welcomed and comfortable with me and our fellow peers.

Even when regrouped, these questions were still floating in my mind. My peers expressed their thoughts on these questions and then we did an exercise in which we all said "My name is…, and I am gay." I wasn't sure how to feel about the situation, all I knew was that I was straight so why was Don making everybody say this? When someone asked that question he said that it makes a safe environment for people in the room that haven't come out yet, and it allows them to feel welcomed. I then understood. We, as people, tend to most of the time leave people out, accidentally, because we don't know anything about them or don't ask questions. And, after doing that exercise I hope everyone feels welcomed and comfortable with me and our fellow peers. 

These workshops helped me, and I hope others, to see that we discriminate without even knowing as well as that we are homophobic. We don't do these things on purpose but it just happens. The workshops allowed us to see our faults, question them, and voice our thoughts. Thanks, Don, for being a great facilitator to all of us and I can't wait teach others what I've been taught. 

Fellows and Bridgers Meet Teens Around the World
by Tess Korn and Nariko Lee

A cloudy November Tuesday, five Youthbridge-­NY Bridgers and Fellows made the journey up the forty plus floors of One Penn Plaza to the Polycom office. Greeted by familiar and new faces, the teens of New York City prepared to meet with young leaders from Jordan, Pakistan, and Southern Thailand. This was a momentous occasion for technological advancement, the students themselves, and the future as a whole by engaging discussions on what the future of the work force may look like in twenty five years. This was the beginning of a whole new means of communication on a global scale. This entire arrangement was brought together to celebrate the twenty­-fifth birthday of Polycom and its fifteen year alliance with Global Nomads Group. These two companies came together on this day to create a day for the flourishing of conversation and making the world seem just a bit smaller by bringing together the opinions of teens from all over the world who might not connect otherwise.

It was fun and interesting to see that even across the world we are all teens and have a lot of similarities.

When we arrived we were greeted by breakfast and friendly Global Nomads Group and Polycom staff. With a great view behind us the conversation started. Introductions were made and then there were 60 second showcases. The 60 second showcase was a gesture to show off something special about your country or culture. The Youth­Bridge-NY teens decided to recite the Pledge of Allegiance after hearing songs and seeing main staples of ethnic food. It was fun and interesting to see that even across the world we are all teens and have a lot of similarities. The main purpose of the event was to talk about the workforce and where we see ourselves in 25 years. Everyone agreed that we hope that there will be more face to face communication in the future and less screen to screen. On the contrary, we do realize that in 25 years some jobs may not exist because of technology advancing at our fingertips. It was a mix of different cultures and perspectives, but we had very similar opinions on what we think the work force will be like in 25 years or what we hope it will be like.

At the end of the conversation Global Nomads Group surprised Polycom with a gift of a map of the world with the places they were able to connect to. We then sang happy birthday and it was a really lovely ending. After that, we got a tour of the very technologically advanced Polycom office. We got to play around with their fun noise cancellation and other fun technologies too. Then it was time to travel down another 48 floors and go on with our day! We thoroughly enjoyed our visit!

Fellows Practice Communicating
by Eric Krebs

October's meeting with YouthBridge-NY Board Member Marsha Haygood was an informative, entertaining, and interactive experience. During the October skill-building session, Ms. Haygood led a seminar on public speaking.  In this seminar she started by explaining the tenants of a good public speaker: body language, pacing, vocal tone, etc.  She explained how just the position of your hands can establish a completely different perception of you.  Additionally, she explained the difference between open and closed body gestures and how it reflects your self-confidence.  Ms. Haygood educated us on the importance of leaving out um and like from our vernacular.  As teenagers, this was especially relevant.  

As blossoming leaders, public speaking is an essential part of creating an image of yourself in front of a crowd, being able to convey your message, and being able to appear professional and prepared.

After educating us, she had each and every fellow stand up and say something about themselves.  A seemingly easy task proved nerve-wracking for many.  After our short speech, she and our colleagues both evaluated our performance and gave us tips for improvement.  As blossoming leaders, public speaking is an essential part of creating an image of yourself in front of a crowd, being able to convey your message, and being able to appear professional and prepared.  Ms. Haygood was kind and endearing, creating a sense of trust between her, myself, and my colleagues. 

Ms. Haygood did practice what she taught.  While instructing us on how to be better speakers, she was one of the most concise, professional speakers I've ever encountered.  She is truly a master of her craft.  From this session, I have already begun working towards eliminating "like" and "um" from my vocabulary and replacing them with silence.  I am now more conscious of body language and the effect it has on how others perceive me.    

YouthBridge-NY Takes on Teensgiving

On November 15, YouthBridge-NY Fellows and Bridgers got together to participate in the 92nd St Y's Teensgiving volunteer event! We cleaned up leaves at Crotona Park in the Bronx and had fun doing it! Check out some pictures from the day: 

Shared Resources for a Shared Future Prepares to Give Back
by Sam Gendler

Here at YouthBridge-NY there are multiple committees. Being part of one means getting to assist the community in various ways.

I am part of the Sharing Resources committee. We meet once a month to discuss how best to complete our task. Our aim is to bestow a grant to an organization that we believe in. However, before we do that there are many steps we have to take. We must learn many skills to be able to make a wise decision and hear everyone's side of the argument.

Having an impact on society at such an early age is a privilege I won’t squander.

During the last few meetings we have been learning new ways to be efficient and productive in our choosing process. During our first session, back in September, we learned how to build a consensus through discourse and discussion. Haley Hyams, our mediator and teacher told us to avoid a vote; there is always a losing side. We practiced this skill by trying to prioritize major problems in our community by how pressing and important they are. Also we learned how to be facilitators in a discussion. That task meant having to avoid putting in our own two cents in a discussion, a rather difficult task when the topics can be controversial, personal, or both.

Of course, all these tools are needed to achieve our goal. During these meetings we have tried to analyze the types of problems prevalent in our communities and in New York City as a whole. Ranging from women's rights to gun violence to education and health, these topics are often controversial and very prevalent in our lives. I've heard many personal anecdotes from all members of our group. However, due to the fact that we are limited by a budget and by only three topics, a lot of consensus building went in to narrow down the list. Only organizations that are actively trying to solve the issues we have chosen to address will be able to send in applications for us to read. Thankfully so, because there are barely a dozen of us and being swamped in applications means reaching an agreement would be nearly impossible. An organization that we all truly believe in might be overlooked.

In our next meeting we will be designing a poster so that the opportunity we are presenting will not be missed. Last time we got to look at a few that the previous groups had designed. They were colorful and interesting; I hope ours will be as professional as theirs' was.

I look forward to choosing a worthy cause to donate to. Having an impact on society at such an early age is a privilege I won't squander.

Fellows Get Strategic
by Emily Ma

For our third Skill-Building Session, Youthbridge-NY Board Member, Ivy Cohen, led a lecture in Strategic Communication to Diverse Audiences. She began with a fun icebreaker where we shared an adjective that we thought best describes ourselves. As we tossed around a plush toy, we shared some key traits about ourselves - creative, outgoing, assertive, and many more. Ivy transitioned into her lesson by relating one's personal trademark to a unique brand in business. As a group, we defined a brand as a product with defining characteristics, and we shared some examples of popular brands, such as Coca Cola, Nike, and Apple. She explained the "5 P's of Marketing" - product, package, price, place, and promotion - and their importance in creating a successful brand. For example, if one wanted to sell winter coats, it would be wisest to sell them in places of colder climates where they would be in higher demand. 

By simulating the process of pitching a product to the consumer field, we were able to utilize what we learned to make it applicable to us.

As a group, we compiled lists of examples of different kinds of products and broke into groups of three. With our groups, we chose an idea, service, and physical product from the lists to sell to an audience and place of our choice. Based on what we learned, we worked together to develop effective ways to sell our chosen products and we shared the results once we were done. The outcome was pretty interesting and creative. For example, one group planned to sell socks to the elderly in the West Coast, which may seem like a challenge, but they came up with a convincing and clever way to make their product appealing to such an audience. Overall, the session gave us a deeper understanding of the business world. By simulating the process of pitching a product to the consumer field, we were able to utilize what we learned to make it applicable to us. If any of us ever want to sell a product in real life, what we learned in this lesson would definitely come in handy.

Cultural Eye Committee Looks at Identity
by Laura Cardona

The cultural eye committee in Youth Bridge-NY has and continues to be a great opportunity to address shared values in a photographic fashion. On our first meeting, my fellows and I were introduced to our photographer, Brian, who introduced us to the photography basics. We covered material such as composition, the golden rule, and exposure. One thing that I found interesting was that exposure was divided into three sub-categories, aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. This is useful information because in order to develop the best shot possible, one must be mindful of just how high or low they set any of the three categories to.

...we were able to discover more about ourselves and one another as we delved into our individual backgrounds as a dignified whole.

On our second meeting, my colleagues and I shared the photos that we took for our homework. The assignment was to take any five images that described you, with any interpretation allowed. We were able to provide constructive criticism and positive feedback in order to fortify our developing photography skills for future tasks. It was pleasant to learn more about my peers and who they identified as, because as time progressed we felt more as a unified community rather than acquaintances. 

Our third meeting focused on family. Similarly, we were tasked to take five pictures with the theme of whatever family meant to us in mind. Like the previous meeting, we displayed our work on the projector as we communicated the message behind our images. Following our presentations, we shifted towards a theme of family to a theme of communities. We conducted brainstorming exercises situated around ‘what words define community?’ as well as ‘what communities do we link ourselves to?’ Again, we were able to discover more about ourselves and one another as we delved into our individual backgrounds as a dignified whole. Additionally, we discussed the term ‘melting pot’ in regards to New York City. Many of my fellows opted to change the term, since the city still holds a very segregated demographic. My favorite part about this was when one of my fellows suggested NYC to be viewed as a ‘supermarket’ rather than a melting pot. His rationale behind this a supermarket contains a wide variety of different foods, although they still belong to their own respective aisles. Likewise, New York holds a huge diversity of cultures, although generally these cultures tend to keep to themselves in their own areas. Ultimately, we had rich conversations that not only focused on our singular selves, but also expanded into talking about real issues/misconceptions within our shared communities.

All in all, the cultural eye committee has not only been an opportunity devoted to pursuing a highly popular liberal expression: photography, but also exists to strengthen our inter-community relations while tackling some of the major issues that our city faces in a respected manner. I look forward to our next meeting in December, as I look forward to the publication of YouthBridge-NY’s annual photographic book, which my fellows and I will surely exceed expectations as the committee has surely exceeded mine.