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During my junior year of high school at St. Mary’s, I, along with my classmates, was offered the opportunity to pursue a weeklong internship at my organization of choice. At the time, I was completely unaware of the substantial impact that EOYDC would have on my life, but I am forever appreciative of the tremendous learning opportunities that I experienced at the Center. During my weeklong internship, I worked in administration and helped out with various aspects of the Center’s operation. In one short week, I was exposed not only to the administrative and operational side of EOYDC, but was able to develop relationships with the young people who frequented the Center as I volunteered daily in EOYDC’s Homework Center.
From that week alone, I immediately recognized that EOYDC was a special place and I was eager to continue my involvement with the Center. The following summer, I volunteered as a Youth Leader for the Summer Cultural Enrichment Program and loved it! The other Youth Leaders were very welcoming and the bonds that I formed with the program participants were invaluable. The kids were so eager to learn and most of all, they made me feel welcome as a newcomer to the Center. During that summer, I was able to meet and network with other Youth Leaders as well as take advantage of the numerous opportunities EOYDC has to offer, including college preparation workshops, motivational speaking seminars, and incredible field trips throughout the Bay Area. Although the summer was coming to a close, I was not yet ready to end my relationship with EOYDC.
Shortly before my senior year of high school, I applied for and was offered a position as a Homework Center Tutor. I was thrilled, as this was my first opportunity to “officially” work at the Center and I would get the privilege of continuing my relationships with the students I met during the summer program. A few days after starting, I was asked to teach an impromptu computer class and the following day I was informed that I would be the new Computer Instructor at EOYDC.
It was at that moment that I realized the immense amount of trust and responsibility that Ms. Regina places in the hands of young people. At 16 years old, I was responsible for designing a curriculum and teaching a class to a group of youngsters who were very eager to learn. On the day of ribbon cutting for the new Magic Johnson/HP Inventor Center, I was selected to represent the participants and staff by making a speech and presenting Mr. Johnson with an award.
The number of kids coming to the class was continuing to grow and with the new Center, many were eager to use the computers to surf the internet. I decided that this could be a great learning opportunity and Ms. Regina and I discussed the prospect of developing a new computer class: Bridging the Digital Divide, which focused on topics of interest to teenagers, including CD burning, web browsing, and digital photography. I wrote a grant to fund the program and taught the class the following summer before heading off to my freshman year of college. I am proud to say that my experience at EOYDC continues to “pay it forward “. Students in the first Bridging the Digital Divide class are now serving as Computer Instructors for EOYDC, leading by the example and experience I had the opportunity to set.
I was fairly certain that I had taken full advantage of all the opportunities EOYDC had to offer, until I received a call from Ms. Regina during the spring of my freshman year, asking me to serve as Program Director for the Summer Cultural Enrichment Program. Since, I had never been a “real” Youth Leader and had only worked in the summer program in volunteer capacities, I was pretty sure that I might not be the right person for the job. That said, Ms. Regina convinced me that I’d be perfect and I decided to give it a shot.
I spent the next two summers growing in ways that I never imagined. Once again, Ms. Regina demonstrated the trust that she had in my abilities by giving me the opportunity to run the Center’s entire summer program at the youthful age of 18. I was responsible for overseeing 2 assistant directors, 25 Youth Leaders, 8 Youth Instructors, as well as 80 program participants. In addition, I coordinated all administrative efforts, including organizing field trips and transportation, bringing in guest speakers, and ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the program went smoothly.
During my time as the director, I also implemented some changes to the program, including the idea of hiring young people, rather than adults, to teach the summer program’s daily classes of art, creative writing, etc. Moreover, I spoke to program participants and former Youth Leaders to determine their interests and added several new classes to the program, including cooking, dance, Spanish, fashion, music, and science. Little did I know, this experience did an incredible job of preparing me for a career in management. Although I am typically shy and quiet, EOYDC forced me to grow as a leader, as I was constantly faced with real world problems and expected to solve them in a timely manner with limited supervision and input from others. This first-hand experience in management is almost unheard of at such a young age and definitely prepared me for my future endeavors.
After graduating from Brown University and working as a consultant, I am now proud to say that I will be matriculating at Harvard Business School in the fall of 2010. I never imagined that the internship I participated in 2002 would lead to such amazing opportunities to examine myself and develop my leadership skills. EOYDC will always have a special place in my heart for its willingness to take chances on young people and help them grow and blossom to their fullest potential. With minimal work experience and a fair amount of self-doubt, Ms. Regina and EOYDC took a chance on me, and for that I am grateful.