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!
What Makes Us Different is Nothing to be Ashamed Of
By Chelsea Cheung and Jessica Gruboy
We both go to Stuyvesant high school and became fellows in the program two years ago. Amidst the chaos of entering our junior years of high school, we were also entering an unfamiliar program. Soon, though, it became something that was to be looked forward to every month.
I [Jessica] was in the Engaging Workplace Diversity committee. I worked with my partner, Ashten, to make a business plan and proposal in front of a boardroom of business people who I wanted so deeply to impress. Through the committee I was able to work at a law firm for six weeks and gain a sense of direction as to what I want my career to look like.
I [Chelsea] took part in the Shared Resources for a Shared Future Committee. Our goal was to advertise a grant of $2000 to nonprofit organizations whose cause either centered on hunger, education, or the environment. In the process, we learned valuable skills such as coming to a consensus, advertising, and how to truly listen to one another. At the end of several months, we ended up choosing Radical Living, a nonprofit whose mission it was to cultivate a vegetable garden to aid in solving the issue of BedStuy being a food desert.
In a world that is becoming increasingly diverse, YouthBridge is playing an integral role in educating us on how to not only be global citizens but leaders. YouthBridge has shown us how important it is to have conversations with people all across the spectrum and those who on the margins. Additionally, this program has also served in helping us navigating and understanding the complexities of our own identity, and how that what makes us different is nothing to be ashamed of, but to be treated as an asset.
YouthBridge-NY has also become a family to me. It has become almost like a respite in the craziness and business of our academic lives, where we are able to meet with other peers all across NYC, amazing, compassionate people we wouldn’t have met otherwise. I have no doubt that our paths will cross again.
All in all, YouthBridge-NY was an incredible experience that has done us a ton of good and has provided us with memories that will never be forgotten.
The Perfect Vehicle for Me to Realize My Altruistic Goals
By Ali Harb
I'll be honest with everyone, when I signed up for YouthBridge-NY, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. While in high school, my older brother had gone to an inspiring Youth Summit. He was ecstatic when he got home. The first words that came out of his mouth were “bro swing your laptop, you gotta sign up for this.”
He, being my mentor, I didn't bother to question him. I knew he had my best interest at heart. After looking at the website, I knew I had to join. Leadership, creating an atmosphere of respect, and improving the quality of ALL lives are topics that caught my attention. However, I was still unclear about how we would go about these major issues. I was confused about experimental learning and workshops. Even though, I knew this was a place I belonged.
So, I went ahead and applied, and what a great decision that was. It's hard to describe what YouthBridge-NY is because it does so much. The only way to truly know is by being a part of it, part of the family.
My True Potential
By Jocelyn Tang
At last year’s Night of Celebration, I gave a brief speech with Jessica, watched the Bridgers give their speeches, and wondered if I could muster the courage to give my own speech when I graduated. Well, here I am. I’m at a point where public speaking is still a bit nervewracking, but I don’t let those nerves get the best of me.
YouthBridge-NY has helped me realize my true potential. It’s taught me what it means to speak up, even if I’m not always comfortable or confident. It’s allowed me to recognize the power of my voice, whether it’s through sharing an opinion or promoting advocacy.
Throughout YouthBridge-NY, I’ve been challenged to consider issues from new perspectives. I’ve met a group of open-minded and welcoming people. I’ve made great memories from our monthly workshops, overnight retreats, and office visits. YouthBridge has helped shaped me to be the person I am today, and I am forever grateful for everything I have learned.
Guidance in a Fast Paced and Rigorous City
By Alif Matin
My name is Alif Matin, and though I was never a timid guy, I definitely started out YouthBridge-NY as a young boy scared of the world. I was only a sophomore at the Bronx High School of Science when my cousin Akif, who is also a Bridger graduating with me today, and I discovered YouthBridge online.
We were both skeptical as our typical high school schedule consisted of hanging out with friends after school. However, we applied, got through our interviews, and soon we were on our way to an overnight retreat with 35 other Fellows and Bridgers. I did not know what to make of it, and honestly I was not expecting much more besides cliche lectures and activities.
But quickly I saw something different, I saw as a Fellow, that there was great diversity among the Bridgers. We began the retreat with activities and games that not only brought us closer, but engaged in fruitful conversations relevant to our society regarding stigmas, the power of generosity, and friendship. The retreat was the start of something beautiful.
From there on, our first year workshops gave us young students guidance in a really fast paced and rigorous city. We were taught to network, to build resumes, and to respect our school janitors the same way we respect our Principals and our parents. We were given the freedom to explore and ask meaningful questions, and soon our YouthBridge center became a safe haven for aspiring teenagers transitioning into early adulthood.
I noticed that my involvement in the program correlated to my increased confidence in school. Sophomore year I ran for a position on the school board, but dropped out. After a year in YouthBridge-NY, I was able to run again for a position and became the Vice President elect at Bronx Science. I knew the lessons learned here would carry through the rest of my academic and professional career, and the people I met at this program taught me how beautiful our city could become with the right education and mentality.
The mentality that when you bring in students of different backgrounds, ethnicity, race, and personality, and encourage them that embracing this DIVERSITY will breed stronger character and a more fruitful perspective. YouthBridge became a home for me, and I am grateful to have been a part of this program. I am thankful for my peers graduating with me today, who made this journey remarkable and every workshop a great time.
Nia Howard Fenton