Turning dreams into reality

Maren Thomas ‘03
Youth Employment Summer (YES)

YES 2002 Weekly Report:

June 17- 21

The first thing I noticed when I stepped off the subway in Harlem was that I am an outsider here. It’s not like I could easily fit in by changing some aspect of myself. My race, my culture, the way I talk, and the way I dress make me feel like a foreigner in a new environment. I discovered quickly that this would be the most educational part of my work as the student intern for YES 2002.

What has fascinated me most about my experience so far has been observing and talking to people who live so differently than myself. The struggles that the young people face at the middle school where I am working are dramatically different from what I encountered at that age, but at the same time they have many quintessential teenage love for their friends, excitement for prom, and restlessness for summer to finally begin. I am also very interested in how The Valley, Inc. is organized. Although I have worked in a small business, I have never experienced the inner-workings of a non-profit agency. I hope to learn as much as possible about this organization and its effectiveness. So far I am extremely impressed by the long hours that Janice works and her dedication to the young people.

This week I began by drafting a tentative outline for the Friday trips and curriculums for the entire summer. Janice had already began setting up a couple of the activities, and we brainstormed other activities together. Next I began calling numerous organizations, museums, and events to ask about rates and make reservations. I tried to choose a wide range of activities in order to make the experience as well-rounded as possible, and I paid special attention to finding ones that the young people wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to do. Then I revised the schedule so that all activities that were not yet confirmed had back-up activities. I provided descriptions of all the planned activities and back-up activities so that people at the Valley or others who are interested can learn about what we are planning.

When this was completed, I drafted a budget for the summer, making sure to account for price differences for the students and the chaperones. Janice and I chose August 8-11 for the Dartmouth trip, and I formed a tentative budget for it based primarily on last year’s budget. This week I also contacted Maria Laskaris, head of Minority Admissions, and James Washington, head of Minority Recruitment at the Dartmouth College Admissions Office. Mr. Washington told us that the Admissions office will most likely be able to provide housing and meal tickets for the weekend that we chose, and he will get back to us once he checks with his assistant. I also contacted the Latino and Afro-American societies at Dartmouth in order to arrange discussions with them.

Once the basic schedule and budget for the summer was complete, I began making the curriculum plans more detailed. Using last year’s curriculum as a guideline, I tried to think of what has helped me the most to get into college and determine my career interests.

I think that a goal-planning workshop would be very beneficial, and Janice says she can most likely get Shone Malliet to conduct one on the first Friday. I also decided that a one-day workshop on SAT preparation would be very beneficial for these students. Although it may not be as interesting as the other workshops, I know SAT practice is essential if this young people want to compete against students who have enough money for SAT prep courses. Because the key to success on the test is practice and test taking strategies, it is vital for these young people to have at least one workshop on this. I would also like to have the young people memorize vocabulary words that commonly appear on the SAT. I want to assign 30-50 words each week for them to study, and then spend a few minutes quizzing them. For the young people who have already taken standardized tests, I will have them take career inventory tests to help guide them towards choosing a major in college and eventually a career.

I also decided that I would like to do one of the Friday workshops on Investing, budgeting money, and the stock market. Because many students do not learn this information unless they go to top notch high schools or take finance courses, I think this workshop will be useful for everyday life. During this workshop the young people will choose stocks to follow, and the person with the highest returns after one month will win a prize. This session will be followed by a tour of the New York Stock Exchange and a two-hour walking tour of the history, architecture, and people of the financial district.

Janice suggested that we do a workshop on MS Office and Excel, since many of the employers require this and very few of the students have it on their resumes. We hope to have a guest speaker lead this workshop. We also plan to do workshops on college planning and the arts, similar to the ones done last year.

I am very excited about planning these curriculums and activities, and hope that I can find ones that will be the most useful for the young people in the little time we have. Once I meet them and get input from them about what they are interested in, some of the plans will probably change.

So far 17 of the young people have been placed in internships, thanks to the hard work of Janice. I have been helping to arrange more interviews, make follow up phone calls, and contact the young people. There are 10 young people that have not been placed yet, and only 8 positions open. We are hoping that a couple more internships will be available at SCAN or The Valley. We have been somewhat limited by only having one computer in the Middle School, and I think this has cut down my efficiency by about 30%. The steady stream of interruptions by the students also makes it more difficult to get work done, but Janice seems to be a very important role-model for these students. Overall the week has been productive and we have successfully planned most of the summer. However, I do not feel like I have enough work to do, and so I have to spend a few hours each day idle. This may be because it is only the first week of the program though; hopefully it will get busier soon. I am very excited to meet the young people next week.

YES 2002 Weekly Report
June 24 – 28, 2002

My second week on the job has been one of extremes. Monday and Tuesday I worked with Janice at Powell Middle School and at the Valley headquarters. The shortage of computers, constant interruptions, and shifting sites during the day cut my productivity dramatically. In addition, most of the main planning for the summer and pressing phone calls were complete, so I also had very little concrete work to do. This combination of factors made me only able to do a couple hours of work each day, which was frustrating. I also have found it very difficult to get work done at Powell School because the room where Janice works is a social place for many kids, which created constant distractions and a noise level higher than in a school cafeteria.

From Wednesday through Friday I worked in Mr. Stern’s office because Janice was on a retreat with The Valley. After discussing the program with Golda and Mr. Stern, I finally had work to do and a desk and computer to work at. It was wonderful to be busy again; I accomplished 95% of this week’s work from Wednesday through Friday.

As expected, a few of our Friday plans have fallen through: BET 106 & Park and Boces teambuilding will probably not happen because of scheduling problems. I am in the process of setting up Wave Hill, American Museum of Natural History, Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty, and the Apollo Theatre as alternative options for these two Fridays. I am also interested in the Museum of Modern Art in Queens (which I hope to visit this weekend to see if it would be a suitable trip), and Nickelodeon Studios (we have contacted Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard and are waiting to hear from her). Once we figure out the budget for the summer we will know which of these activities are feasible.

So far 19 of the young people have been hired, and eight more are left to compete for the remaining seven spots. The numbers have evened out due to one more employer joining the program (Schone Malliet) and one intern dropping out (because of summer school.) I wrote a two-page letter to all the interns listing their employer’s contact info, when they will start work, rules and regulations, and dress code. In past years this information has been covered during the education session on the first Friday, but it is a good idea to get all this information to the young people sooner so they can make a good first impression when they begin work. I also wrote a questionnaire for the young people to fill out at the first Friday session in order to get to know them and better plan the activities around their interests.

I have been working hard to set up interviews with the last few employers. Because it is often difficult to contact candidates once an interview is set up, it would be a good idea to create a system for getting in touch with them. Maybe during the last week before the program begins, all young people who have not been placed should call the YES intern each day to check in. This would make it obvious who really is “hungry” to work, and extra measures could be taken to set up interviews for them.

I also have continued making contacts for the Dartmouth trip. I have talked with the Admission Office, and there may be a conflict with our chosen date (8/8-8/11). If this is the case, we will go on the trip one week earlier. We will know for sure next week. The Afro-American and Latino Societies would like to do a dinner/discussion with our group. I would like to do the canoeing trip (as was done last year), and I am also looking into a workshop at the Jewelry/Woodworking studio.

Next week all of the young people with pending interviews and those who have been hired but do not start work until the second week will meet at Wadleigh School. Although Janice mentioned that there may be some work for them at the school, I am also planning activities for them. I think a couple hours each morning should be spent on SAT preparation and college planning, and then the afternoon could be spent on a group activity. Golda suggested having them read a play and perform it for the other young people next Friday, and I think this is a wonderful idea. I am going to get the script for A West Side Story. I think this will help the young people get to know each other, and the performance will be a great way to kick off the first Friday of the summer. If the young people at Wadleigh have extra time next week, I will also get the movie version of A West Side Story for them to watch.

Struggling to be productive without sufficient resources has proven to be the biggest challenge of my internship thus far, and it has led me to wonder if I could ever work for a non-profit company after graduation. The Valley is not run like a business, it feels more like a social service agency. There are not guns to anyone’s head or millions of dollars to be lost as there were in at the finance company where I worked last fall. I am drawn to the causes that many non-profit agencies address, but I love the fast-paced, high pressure environment found at businesses created to make a profit. As I look towards choosing a career this fall, I wonder if any sort of happy medium exists, and if so, where I could possibly find it. I realize that most likely I will have to choose between the personal gratification of helping people, and the intellectual stimulation of working in a competitive business. Hopefully this summer will help shed some light on my decision.

YES 2002 Weekly Report
July 1- 5, 2002

This week we are finishing the interview process and planning our first Friday education session and trip. The final interviews will be completed this Friday, and most likely all of the young people will secure internships. We just learned that Shone Malliet’s friend Mr. McHenry has positions available for up to four candidates, which means that seven out of the eight young people left without internships will probably be able to work this summer (if their interviews run smoothly). Hopefully we will have enough scholarships available so that almost all the qualified candidates will be able to participate in the program.

I called all of the employers on Monday to make sure the interns had arrived at work, and I also gave them my contact information in case there are any problems. Already some issues have resulted from interns missing work without contacting anyone. I will make sure to emphasize work conduct at the educational session this Friday.

We are in the midst of planning our first Friday session. After introductions and rules/regulations, Shone Malliet is going to give a talk on goal planning. Afterwards we will attend the American Museum of Natural History. I am in the process of planning exactly what exhibits we will visit. I am trying to plan this Friday in as much detail as possible so everything runs smoothly. I have enjoyed meeting the young people who are working in the Valley this week, and am very excited to meet the rest of them this Friday.
I have also talked with the Dartmouth Admissions Office and have confirmed August 8-11 for the Dartmouth trip. They will provide us with dorms and meal tickets. I am also setting up a dinner and discussion with the Latino and Afro-American organizations on campus. Next week I hope to plan the activities and logistics of the trip in more detail.

I have made some adjustments to our Friday plans in order to tighten the budget. As of now, almost all the activities will be free, so the Dartmouth trip will be the main cost of the program. The young people who are working at the Valley this week have been helpful for thinking of ideas of trips and activities they would be interested in.

Overall, the most pressing issues have been addressed this week, but little else has been accomplished. This is due to the shortened week, and the lack of a computer and a phone for us to use. Luckily we have a room and a phone line now and so employers and interns can get in touch with us. I hope we have better access to a computer next week because otherwise it is difficult to be organized and plan activities. I think I need to just relax and enjoy working for a non-profit, instead of constantly trying to get work done. On a side note, although the internship has not been too challenging yet, I am really learning a lot just by trying to stay on my own budget. I would never again try to live in New York without at least making minimum wage. After a few weeks in New York, I wish I could go back to Dartmouth and would choose it over the real world in a second.
YES 2002 Weekly Report
July 8-12, 2002

This week I began traveling to the workplaces of the interns in order to conduct site evaluations. It is difficult to get in touch with many of the employers and set up the visits, so next year I would suggest calling them a full week ahead to set up the times. It might be easier to have them sign up for timeslots for both visits (the 2nd and 5th week) at the beginning of the summer, and then the YES intern would only have to call and remind them. Otherwise the visits have been going very well, and so far all of the employers are extremely satisfied with their interns. I think it is a good idea to visit the workplace early in the summer and make sure the intern is comfortable there and everything is running smoothly.

However, it does take a lot of time to do all the visits, so I would advise next years intern to plan ones that are close together to cut down on travel time (I do not know the city well enough to do this and ended up feeling like I was running around NYC in circles all day).

Last Friday we went to the American Museum of Natural History. The tickets were free since the young people attend NYC public schools, but we were restricted from attending the baseball exhibit. Next year it might be worth it to pay a few extra dollars in order to see the newest exhibit, since many of the kids might have already been to the museum for field trips. We gave them a quiz at the end of the day to make sure they were paying attention to the exhibits. Overall the education session and trip went very well. Katharine came to speak to the young people about movie production, which was an interesting and fun way to start off the summer.

This Friday Shone Malliet will talk about his work experiences and goal setting, and a young lawyer named (this was just planned today so I do not have her name yet) will talk about her experiences finding a career. I also prepared SAT practice material and vocab words for the young people who are still in high school. In the afternoon we are going on a tour of the African Burial Grounds and then visiting the site of the World Trade Center.
The Dartmouth trip is planned for August 8-11, 2002. I am going to plan it in more detail next week. We have set up a BBQ with the Latino and Afro-American Organizations for Saturday night, and we are going to split the cost with them. I have written down the names of all the young people who are interested in attending, and consent forms will be due at the end of next week.

So far I am a little confused about Janice’s role in the program. She seems to spend most of her time on other things, so I’m not sure what here duties for YES are specifically. I think it would help to have more defined roles for the “Program Coordinator” and the “Student Intern” so they could work together more efficiently. I still do not feel very comfortable at The Valley, just because it is so different than any other environment I have worked in. Overall I have gotten many of the site evaluations completed this week, but have not have much time to do other work for the program. Although I do not feel as productive at the end of the day, I have really enjoyed meeting the employers and seeing where all of the interns work.

YES 2002 Weekly Report
July 15-19, 2002

This week I continued doing site evaluations. Overall the interns are doing an excellent job and their employers are very satisfied with their work. We have had only one incident: an employer (Beth Israel Medical Center) told me she feels like her intern ‘has an attitude’. I discussed it with the employer at great length, and then talked to the intern about it. Hopefully it is partly due to a misunderstanding, and when we followed up with the employer she said it has improved a little. I am going to make sure to keep the lines of communication open. Other than that, all of the employers are satisfied with their interns. I have really enjoyed conducting the evaluations and meeting all of the employers.

Two of the interns feel like they do not have enough work to do. I found projects and other assignments (SAT, college preparation, etc) for them to work on during the down time, so they do not get bored. However, neither of them have access to the internet so that has made it more difficult to find extra projects for them. I have also explained to the interns that most of the work interns do is somewhat tedious, and encouraged them to keep working hard. If they are enthusiastic and disciplined, they will eventually gain the trust of their bosses and get more important assignments.

Last week Schone Malliet talked to the young people about goal setting and his experiences choosing a career. Crystal Morales also came and talked to them about how she worked her way up to becoming a Lawyer. I thought both of these speakers were interesting and inspirational, and I would definitely recommend having them speak next year. Afterwards we visited the African Burial Grounds and the site of the World Trade Center. I give this trip a 5 on a scale of 1 through 10- it was somewhat interesting, but not particularly exciting. The tour of the Burial Grounds consisted of hearing the history behind 5 different works of art and then looking out on a fenced in lawn (where the Africans were buried). Hopefully our trip to the New York Stock Exchange this Friday, July 19 will be more intriguing.

I am planning a brief introduction to the stock market in preparation for our trip. The young people will get to learn about stocks, money markets and the NYSE, and then will have a stock market contest. Everyone will choose a stock to follow for the rest of the summer, and the person whose security has the highest percentage gain will win the contest. We will also discuss how to make yourself more marketable through cover letters and resumes. The young people who were given SAT vocabulary words to memorize will take a quiz on these words. This week I will give them vocabulary words and a few sections of a practice SAT to take.

I have also completed a preliminary itinerary for the Dartmouth Trip. I am requesting that we stay in dorms other than the Choates. The Debate Camp shared these dorms with the YES program last year, and from what I hear the Debaters were a little rowdy and argumentative. Also I would like to plan a visit to the Jewelry Studio, a hike to the fire towers (which have a beautiful view), canoeing and a picnic at an island downstream, and a scavenger hunt in town (but I know can’t do all of these activities or we wouldn’t get any sleep on the trip!) We are also going to have a BBQ with the Latino and Afro-American organizations on Saturday night.

Overall the week has been productive. The site evaluations have kept me busy and added some variety to my daily work. Talking to Michael Stern and Golda Pincus helped to clarify my role in the program. Although Janice is the program coordinator, she is very busy with other work. For most of the summer I have been working independently of Janice, and then checking in with her a few times a day for advice and suggestions. I was a little unsure if I was taking too much initiative, but actually the program runs most smoothly when the intern does most of the daily work and Janice oversees it.

YES 2002 Weekly Report
July 22 - 26, 2002

This week I have spent most of my time planning the annual trip to Dartmouth. I have sent a preliminary schedule to the Admissions Office (Diana Hwang and Cheryl Sprang have been the main contacts), and are waiting for a confirmation from them. On Friday we are planning to take a campus tour, attend an information session, attend a class, and take a tour of career services. I have contacted sophomores at Dartmouth to find interesting classes for the young people to attend, and I have set up a lunch at the Tucker Foundation with Rebecca Bliss. I am waiting to hear whether Career Services will be able to accommodate us on Friday afternoon. In the evening we are going to attend “The Comedy of Errors,” a play at the Hopkins Center. The student rate for tickets is $5 (they are unable to provide us with free tickets.)

On Saturday we are going to have a bagel breakfast at Collis. At 2 PM we have reservations for canoeing (I am waiting to hear back from Ledyard Canoe Club as to whether we will get them for free). We have confirmed a joint dinner/discussion with La Alianza Latina and The Afro-American Society on Saturday night. I am also hoping to either do a scavenger hunt or a hike to the fire towers on Saturday. Unfortunately the Jewelry Studio is unable to accommodate such a large group during the summer. Saturday evening I am hoping we can attend an acappella concert, but it may be difficult to arrange since there is only one acappella group on campus in the summer. If we cannot attend a concert, we are going to go to a movie at the Nugget Theatre in Hanover. We are going to leave Hanover on Sunday morning at 8AM. Although this is early, I think it is best to get back to New York City as early as possible because the young people have work the next day.

Last Friday we visited the New York Stock Exchange. Although the tour was short (only one hour), I think it was the most interesting Friday activity so far this summer. In the morning Steve Lawrence gave a short talk on investing, and then I taught the young people about different things to invest in (stocks, bonds, real estate investment trusts, mutual funds, etc.). Then they each chose a stock to invest in, and at the end of the summer the person with the high percentage increase will win the contest.

This Friday we are going to go on a tour of MTV studios. During our education session I am going to give the young people practice SAT tests and career assessment tests (for the ones who have already taken the SATs). I also have been giving the young people vocabulary words to memorize each week, and quizzing them on Fridays. Joyce Malliet assigned a 5-page essay on goals, which the young people must turn in this Friday in order to get paid.

All the site evaluations have been completed except for two. The intern at Pavia & Harcourt just began last week because the previous intern left the program unexpectedly. I have not been able to reach them yet to set up the evaluation, but am hoping to do it on Thursday. I have also had a lot of trouble reaching the employer at SCAN, and have left numerous messages without any response.

Most of the interns have received excellent evaluations. The only problem has been that two of the interns have not been quite as eager to take on work and have shown a little attitude to their bosses. Because these are two of the most experienced and able interns in the YES program, their mediocre to poor reviews have been particularly distressing. Both of these interns also told me that they are bored at work and do not have enough to do (while all of the other YES interns said they have enough work to do.) We have addressed both of them about their behavior and have also talked with their employers in hopes of improving the situation. However, some candidates who are already in college may feel they are too old for the YES program, and may display an attitude which makes them difficult to work with. Although this behavior is inexcusable, it might be better not to admit them to the program in the beginning rather than dealing with their attitudes for the summer.

For the second round of evaluations, I am going to fax the forms to the employers next week. I will be available to talk with any of the employers who would like to discuss the evaluation, but in most cases it does not seem necessary since they are satisfied with their interns. I am including a letter with the fax in order to keep the lines of communication open, but I know that many of them are too busy to meet again in person.

YES 2002 Weekly Report
July 29- August 2, 2002

This week I continued planning the trip to Dartmouth College. We have a full schedule planned with canoeing, hiking, a scavenger hunt, trips to classes, and much more. Fifteen young people are able to go on the trip and we have purchased the tickets on greyhound. Because of problems with last minute cancellations in the past, we have laid down the law this year: anyone who cancels after the tickets have been purchased will have to pay the price of their ticket. The admissions office intern has been very helpful in making the final plans for the trip. The most recent budget and Itinerary for the trip are attached.

Last week we took a tour of MTV studios, and unfortunately it was nothing to write home about. They told us initially to split into two groups, and one would take an 11:30AM tour and the other would take a 12 PM tour. During the end of the first group’s tour, one of the tour coordinators told us that they were really busy and the other group needed to do the tour immediately. I called Janice, and she brought everyone over within five minutes. Although it was only 11:45AM, the tour coordinator then decided they were too busy to do the tour and asked us to come back at 2 PM. This posed a problem for us because we were planning to go to Bryant Park for education, and this change would disrupt our plans for the afternoon. We let the young people vote on whether they wanted to go back for the tour, and they decided to skip it. Overall the tour had been disappointing (it was less than 15 minutes long), and they were quite rude to us, so I would not recommend going back to MTV studios next year.

The education session consisted of SAT (for the younger ones) and Career Tests (for the older ones). I do not know how useful career testing is, besides just getting the young people to start thinking about their education and their future. However, I think that SAT practice is vital and should be made a regular part of this program. There should be a structured plan with at least an hour of SAT preparation each week. This summer we have done vocabulary tests each week (but most the young people do not memorize the words) and a few sections of a practice test. Next week I would like to run a workshop on test taking strategies and then give them another section of a practice test. I know this is probably their least favorite part of the program, but I really believe this preparation is important. Many Admissions offices at private colleges weight the SATs about 30%, and at large state schools it is weighted much more heavily. When I gave the YES participants vocab words and practice tests, I was shocked at how under-prepared they are.

I have faxed the end-of-summer evaluation forms to all of the employers in order to avoid taking up their time. I made sure to make myself available for any that would like to meet in person. We have had one more work incident- the intern at MPPI has been late to work, filled out his time sheet for days he was not at work, and is basically under-qualified for the job. I discussed the problem with the employer, but at this point in the summer it is difficult to make too many changes. We are going to talk to the intern about his behavior, and the employer is going to try to find work for him that better matches his skill set. Other than that, all of the placements have been running smoothly.

I have also begun working on the end-of-summer newsletter, and need to collect quotes and pictures. Unfortunately Janice is in Washington D.C. this week and will not be here on Friday, so I am in charge of education and the trip tomorrow. We are going to take a tour of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of Art, and then go to Bryant Park for Education afterwards. I am planning to do SAT testing/workshop and Career testing, and then a discussion on college applications and how to succeed once you get there. We’re also going to discuss the plans for the Dartmouth trip, followed by current events and journal writing.

Overall the program is running smoothly and things have been a little busier this week. We’re all excited about the Dartmouth trip next week, it should be a great way to end the summer.

YES 2002 Weekly Report
August 5-9, 2002

I spent most of this week confirming plans for the Dartmouth Trip, which would have been a lot of fun. Unfortunately it was cancelled the day before we were supposed to leave due to a case of meningitis at Dartmouth on August 3rd. It is too bad we are unable to go, but I think everyone feels better about playing it safe and going to Dartmouth another time. We are still looking to confirm an alternative trip for tomorrow; most likely we will take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and visit the Ellis Island Museum.

Last week we went on a tour of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art. I thought this was by far the best trip we have been on all summer. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and did a great job of facilitating discussion and helping the young people relate to the art. Afterwards everyone wrote a reaction in their journals to their favorite piece at the museum. I would definitely recommend this trip and others like it in coming years. It is essential to have a guided tour because otherwise it is easy to pass through a museum without thinking and relating to the work.
The rest of the day was somewhat more chaotic. I called all of the interns telling them to come at 8:30AM to pick up their pay checks, but then the checks weren’t here until 9:15AM, which made us late to our tour. I do not know how this situation could be handled better in the future. After going on the tour of the Whitney, we spent the afternoon at Wadleigh School doing SAT practice tests and a workshop, Career Tests. Then we had a discussion on test taking challenges/strategies, and college admissions/financial aide. Both these were great discussions and I think everyone learned some good tips for the future. All of the young people were involved- either telling about their experiences and giving advice, or asking questions.
My work situation at Wadleigh School has improved as well. Initially it was very intimidating walking into an all black office, and I felt like an outsider. I have always been fairly shy and reserved, and I know this could come across as snobby. In addition, the shortage of computers made me feel like I was infringing on someone’s workspace whenever I used one, and I was always worried about hogging the limited resources. It has taken awhile to get on friendly terms with the other people who work here, but now that I am getting to know them better, I feel more comfortable here. Janice has also been very friendly, easy to work with, and has helped me to feel more accepted here.

The work has been straightforward, and in the future, I would suggest a 30-hour week for the YES intern. There really is nowhere near 40 hours of work to do, and a shorter week would allow the intern to get another job to cover living expenses in New York. Overall this summer I have learned the most just from being completely out of my comfort zone. This is what has made the internship invaluable; I do not think there are many jobs I could have taken this summer that would have provided me with this sort of challenge. Lecturing in front of a group of kids and leading the Friday trips has been a lot of fun and has pushed me to be assertive and outgoing. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the participants of the program. I know that I do not really understand many of the challenges that they have had to face, just because I come from such a different background. I try to just be supportive of them as they encounter new experiences and prepare for the future. I hope that the discussions, education sessions, and workplace experiences have made some sort of impact on them and will help them to succeed in the years to come. YES 2002 Final Report

This summer has been a great learning experience for me because it has taught me completely different skills than all of my past internships and jobs. The most valuable part of it has been immersing myself in a environment completely foreign to me. There seemed to be underlying politics and unspoken rules at The Valley that I did not really understand, and as the only white person, I often felt like an outsider. In addition, I was not used to the work environment at a non profit organization, and often found it difficult to get work done with all the talking, socializing, and lack of resources.
However, I knew that the challenge of this internship would be pushing myself to adapt to the atmosphere and expectations at this organization. I like the idea of working for a good cause, but felt like I was not able to use my abilities to the fullest extent. As I consider the jobs that I will apply for this fall, I would like to find an occupation where I can help people, but I would also like to find a past-paced, pressured environment where I am challenged and pushed to achieve my potential.

The parts of the internship that I liked best were getting to know the young people in the program, planning the Friday trips and education sessions, and planning the trip to Dartmouth. I enjoyed working with the YES participants because they were bright, grateful for the chance to work, and optimistic about the future. It was a challenge for me to get up in front of 25 students, who are just a few years younger than me, and teach them about topics such as the stock market, the SAT, and college planning. But I know this part of the internship was very good for me. I also enjoyed the opportunity to take initiative and plan creative educational sessions and trips around the city.

Next year I would recommend having more structured education sessions. Although the SAT and Career Tests were not very exciting, most of the young people actually said they would have liked more of it. I would recommend having them take one section of the SAT each week, and then correcting and discussing it. Weekly vocabulary tests would also be beneficial. Career tests and discussions about college majors and occupations would be useful for the older kids. All of the guest speakers were inspirational and interesting; I would definitely recommend having all of them back next year. I also think the young people would benefit from doing weekly assignments (researching colleges, finding scholarships they are eligible for, writing about their goals for the future, test preparation). Although they are already busy with their internships, these are things that college bound students need to be doing anyway in order to succeed.

The trips we went on this summer ranged from mediocre to excellent. I have found that it is very important to have a guided tour because the students end up learning a lot more and discussing the exhibits with each other. The Whitney Museum of American Art and the New York Stock Exchange were the two best trips that we went on. The Natural History Museum and The African Burial Grounds were good trips. I would not advise going to MTV Studios again (because the tour was only fifteen minutes long.)

One of the difficult parts of this internship was trying to stay organized when we were often moving classrooms and did not always have access to a computer. Sometimes it was also tough to stay in contact with some of the employers and interns because we didn’t have an office with a phone line that we were working in on a daily basis. I had to make an effort to be extra organized so all of the important tasks would get completed.
The other difficulty was that about half of the YES participants are going to be freshmen in college while the other half are still in high school. Although many of the employers prefer older interns, they don’t have quite as much to gain from the program since we do a lot of college planning, SAT preparation, and a trip to Dartmouth. If there were only college students or only high school students, it would be easier to find topics that are relevant to everyone. In the future maybe the students should split into two groups for at least a portion of the Friday education sessions. This would take more planning for Janice and the YES Intern, but it would allow all of the young people to gain more from the program.

Overall I learned the most just from the people I worked with. When I first walked into The Valley, it felt like walking into a foreign country. In my past internships the people I worked with have been reserved, hard working and very polite, whereas the people at The Valley are dynamic, social and usually say what is on their mind. It was challenging to push myself to be outgoing in a culture with social graces I’d never been exposed to. I was concerned that I came across as snobby, when really I am just shy, but I tried to break free from this. All of this has been a great learning experience for me, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work for the YES program. I would definitely recommend this internship to others, as it is an excellent way to help others while pushing yourself.