Summer 2015

Working Hard with Engaging Workplace Diversity
by Susan Wu

From working at my internship at Velez Organization to skill building meetings, hosted by amazing mentors such as Wendy Caster, Marsha Haygood, and Lauren Tapper, to company visits (Barclays, Allianz, Kramer Levin, L’Oreal USA), and finally to the presentations of our entrepreneurship projects at Allianz, each day of this summer held exciting new challenges and opportunities.

EWD fellows pose with our esteemed judges at the closing luncheon

At my internship at Velez, I was able to not only learn about the successful company’s day to day operations, but about interpersonal relationships as well. Interacting with members of a partnering company, attending interviews and meetings, celebrating the 2015 FIFA World Cup Champion USA women’s soccer team at City Hall, and honoring Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Governor Andrew Cuomo for their work on the Campus Accountability and Safety Act definitely widened my scope.

Of course, the summer wouldn’t be complete without the companionship of my friends in the EWD committee.  Whether it's crowding together into an elevator going up to the 42nd floor in a midtown building on one of our company visits or bouncing ideas for our entrepreneurship project catchphrases, coming together with the other EWD committee members each Wednesday were some of the highlights of the summer. I was able to learn so much about not only their internship placements but each of them as a individual people. Multiple times, Tess arranged to meet up beforehand to avoid swiping the guest passes in the elevator scanner that never worked and we always shared a good laugh over it. Hemali and I would take the train home and Sarah would sometimes join us. Raian and I would trade school stories and we even found a mutual friend. And last but not least, Noah and I challenged ourselves with creating humorous hooks and engaging aspects of our entrepreneurship project Vision Acuity.

I truly enjoyed this summer and I’m looking forward to so much more next year as a Bridger. I’m just waiting to top off an amazing summer with YouthBridge’s annual retreat!

New Faces and New Experiences at Retreat
by Spencer Eo

With just a few weeks before the start of a new school year, both the Bridgers and incoming Fellows were invited to a two-day orientation retreat at URJ Kutz Camp up in Warwick, NY.  Exchanging my comfy bed and Netflix subscription for a cabin and sleeping bag, I packed for this short getaway with a whole lot of anticipated excitement and even a little bit of nervousness. 

As I arrived at our meeting point in Midtown, the energy as YouthBridge-NY students slowly trickled in was vibrant, flooded with warm greetings and immediate conversation starters.  After a couple hour-long bus ride where new friendships were quickly made, we arrived at our rural destination in what felt like was the middle of nowhere surrounded by tall trees and clear skies.  For many of us, it may have been the first time out of the city, but I think that was the goal YouthBridge had in mind—to get us out of our comfort zones.  And the mission was successfully manifested through icebreakers, workshops, and games over the course of the trip. 

I fondly remember our first of many “getting to know one another” activities where the YouthBridge staff had us form into two circles, with one circle inside the other.  As I was a part of the outer circle, I was directed to talk with whoever was in front of me on the inner circle based on a prompt.  Then after a minute or so, the outer circle turned clockwise one person over, and suddenly I was talking with someone new.  This process repeated again and again as new questions were delivered.  It was almost like speed dating where each person was introducing themselves and then trying to say as much as they could about what superpower they would want to have.  If you listened, you could hear probably twenty conversations or so happening at once with teenagers dreaming that they could fly, read minds, or never having to sleep ever again.  It was a great chance for us to meet new faces and share stories.

At the same time, we also definitely took advantage of what was left of the summer weather.  During organized team-building games, we were running all around the campsite, and during break we organized our own full-court basketball games and made full use of the swimming pool where some of us even gave swimming lessons to those who couldn’t swim.  Whereas I most likely would’ve been surfing the web if I were at home, I was spending this afternoon outdoors appreciating life outside the city. 

While sitting around the bonfire assembling s’mores and doing show and tell comes a very close second, the highlight of the retreat for me, and probably the rest of YouthBridge was our final workshop on race and privilege.  Since one of the key purposes of YouthBridge is to bring together students from different backgrounds and walks of life, addressing this current and pressing subject during the retreat was important.  Because of the hours of bonding with one another throughout retreat, we were comfortable with sharing our feelings and unique stories, and asking questions about race and cultural differences.  Therefore, inquiries and responses were unfiltered and pushed us in the best way possible, and we all got a better understanding of what this issue truly looked like from an array of perspectives.  It brought the team to a new level of growth and closeness, and made a meaningful ending to what was a worthwhile retreat.   

Enjoy these? See even more photos from retreat on our facebook!

Did you miss your chance to buy a Cultural Eye photo or photobook in June? 

Photos and photobooks are still available here at the website! These pieces of art are each taken by a YouthBridge-NY fellow and every purchase supports our fantastic teens.