Student Tour Reflections from New York City

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After arriving in Philadelphia, our group had time to reflect on the incredible first few days of the Citizenship Tour. Check out our student highlights from each itinerary event in New York City!

Meeting with NUSEA Executive Director Tim Wyant and StreetSquash founder and Executive Director George Polsky
By Tiffany C. and Denise B.

On the first day of the Citizenship Tour, after engaging in some icebreaker activities at Central Park, we went to StreetSquash for a hit-around. After playing with our Tour mates from 11 different programs, we had two important visitors meet us outside of the courts. We met with Tim Wyant, the Executive Director of NUSEA, and George Polsky, the StreetSquash Executive Director and Founder. As urban squash players, it was a huge honor to meet a man who started one of the first urban squash programs, and an even greater honor to meet a man who is determined to help launch even more of them.

Tim spoke about his experience with the sport of squash and how in his early years as a junior squash player, he observed little diversity within the players. It was this observation that gave him the idea to introduce squash to students in urban communities. He started by leading CitySquash, and eventually moved into the position of Executive Director of NUSEA. George Polsky spoke of the struggle to make StreetSquash become a reality. He said he always feels pressure to do well, and left us with much wisdom. Tim and George really set the tone for what it means to be an engaged citizen.

Meeting with Deputy Mayor Richard Buery
By Jesus B. and Tyrese E.

Our first Citizenship Tour stop took us to City Hall to see Deputy Mayor Richard Buery. The visit covered some very important topics. We discussed whether the “American Dream” is a myth or a reality and about the initiatives he is leading in New York City. We all were very attentive for the responses from this high authority.

Deputy Mayor Richard Buery showed determination from his youth and a dedication to give back to where he came from. We can apply this to our lives and communities back home because of the example of his work on the non-profit organizations he has created such as iMentor and Groundwork. iMentor recruits volunteers to help NYC students on the path to college, and sets them up for a successful future career. Groundwork serves to help support families and students living in Brooklyn public housing. After he became Deputy Mayor, he started a program to give free high-quality pre-K to all NYC kids steering them into the direction for a successful life; by adding over 1,000 diverse teachers, he aims to diversify NYC school systems. Deputy Mayor Richard Buery has taught us that it doesn’t matter where you come from, because if you work hard you can be at the same status as those you admire.

Visit to NBC Studios
By DuBois S. and Aaron L.

On Thursday, we took a tour of the NBC studios with Brett Holey, the Senior Director of NBC Nightly News. On the tour, we had the privilege to visit the sets of the Today show and Studio 8H where Saturday Night Live is filmed. We learned that the lighting system on a TV set is much more complicated than we expected. There were over 400 types of stage lights between each set we were on. We later went into the control panel area where the shows were being coordinated and got a view of what goes on behind the scenes at NBC.

At the NBC Nightly News studio, we met lead anchor Lester Holt. He talked about his experience as a reporter on the highest level and how he got there. After giving us a brief background, he held a question and answer session for us. One of the topics addressed was how being a person of color affected their careers and pressure from the African American community.

Hearing his responses and about his career path, we were inspired by his story and empowered to reach for similar goals. He began work by broadcasting on local radio stations. After becoming friendly with some local news stations, he got his first job as a reporter and the rest, as they say, is history. One thing that resonated with us was when he made a comparison in his job to climbing the rungs on the ladder of success. He said that most people only look ahead and never stop to take a look at the view. The way he said this made it feel like we were just talking to any normal man on the street, with his poise and great humility.

Meeting David Segal and Touring the NY Times Building
By Joana P.

On the second night of the tour’s visit to New York City, David Segal came to StreetSquash’s facility to speak with the Citizenship Tour.  After his introduction, the Citizenship Tour students began to ask questions about his work with the column “The Haggler.” We took this information in and realized that being a journalist was very interesting and could be a potential career interest for us.

On Friday morning, the tour group went to reunite with David Segal at the building of The New York Times located on 40th Street and 8th Avenue. Once we entered the building, David showed us where some of the writers get their inspiration. Highlights included a visit to the illustrious hallway full of previous Pulitzer Prize winners’ plaques and witnessing the silence that filled the room of the hardworking writers of The Times.

Meeting Barbara Ortiz Howard, Founder of Women on 20’s
By Javier G.

It was amazing to hear what Barbara Ortiz Howard has accomplished with her campaign Women on 20’s. This campaign is aimed at getting an influential woman onto the twenty-dollar bill, something she felt was necessary to represent the role of women in our nation’s history. Women on 20’s started in March of 2015 and immediately went viral. The campaign included an online poll where you could vote for what woman could go on the twenty-dollar bill, which received over 300,000 votes from the start of the campaign. At the end of the poll, the woman that got the most amount of votes was Harriet Tubman, making her the new face of the campaign.

What makes this a significant contribution to society, and especially women’s history, is that now we’ll be seeing a woman on paper currency, a big step from having women like Sacagawea and Helen Keller on various American coins in the past. This will allow for people to learn more about women’s history and the struggles they’ve endured throughout the past, giving women all across the world the voice and representation they’ve always deserved.

Meeting Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Nisha Agarwal
By Starnisha R. and Kamarra R.

On Friday, we met with Nisha Agarwal at City Hall, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Commissioner Agarwal explained about how she always knew she wanted to get involved with helping people, even at a young age. Her parents were immigrants from India, which made her especially interested in immigration affairs.

We learned of her challenges in working in New York City, one of the most diverse cities in the world. She proudly shared about the development of the IDNYC program, a way to
ensure that immigrants in New York have access to government services and Action NYC which provides free and safe immigration help for every New Yorker.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
By Davir T., America S., and Antar J.

On our last day in New York City, we embarked on a memorable and touching experience. We visited the location where the Twin Towers, that were part of the World Trade Center, once stood. Now, lies a memorial and museum to dedicate the lives that were taken on September 11th, 2001.

Upon arriving we were introduced to the two reflecting pools, which are the footprints representing the north and south towers. Along the borders of the pools lied the names of the victims who perished on this tragic event. Their names were categorized depending on the location of their death. In total, there were 2,977 casualties.

Entering the museum, 70 feet below ground, we maneuvered throughout the different artifacts. The memorial wall was an art piece that consisted of various shades of blue representing each individual who had lost their lives that day. After, we had made our way into the memorial exhibition. Surrounded by portraits of the victims, we were affected greatly by the fact that lives were lost as young as two years old. Next, the historical exhibition presented a timeline of how the day led to the tragedy. Many say that the day began beautifully, but as we progressed through the timeline, we saw how from one moment to another,  America was never the same.

Lastly, we joined together to reflect on our thoughts and emotions that emerged throughout the visit. We all left with a different mindset and appreciative of our lives that we live today. This day will forever be history, and a memory to others.

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