Secure the Bag: Pathways to Economic Equality

Did you know that youth in low-income communities 16-24 have the highest rates of unemployment? Aside from the barriers of violence, crime, food deserts, and failing schools- Poverty is the pre-curser to all of these social determinants that block young people from low-income communities from success. How can young people " Get out the Hood" if there isn't an abundance of opportunities to do so? The transition from childhood to adulthood is not easy; it comes with many responsibilities and can be very tough if you are underprivileged or misguided.

Let’s talk about it! What are the barriers to success, why is financial literacy important to creating generational wealth and how can young people access career readiness and internships? These opportunities are becoming more scarce as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and young people WANT to WORK! They want independence, to help with family expenses and they want to fund their futures.

#SaveSYEP and other advocacy efforts have made it clear that youth employment should be made a priority and readily available to the communities that need it the most. Race and Economics have always been indicators of success, young people deserve a chance to change the narrative and be provided with actualizing their potential and reach past the stars.

Kawan Joseph

Kawan Joseph

Kawan Joseph is a sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson University. In 2020, he and an HS friend, Jeff Senatus started a photography business called "ShotsbyJvisions." The business allowed him to network with a variety of clientele in and around Brooklyn, NY. Keep an eye out for these up and coming creatives.

Elijah Green

Elijah Green

Elijah Green is a 16-year-old student at Broome Street Academy whose passion for community, racial equity and the arts has led him to activism and service. Elijah’s participation with The Possibility Project has given him the opportunity through theater arts to bring awareness, life and voice to issues that young people face every day: bullying, social acceptance, sexual orientation discrimination and gender identity bias. In addition to volunteering with the Bravo EMT Youth program in Bay Ridge, he is part of the NYPD Explorers program, where he is considering a career in law and public service. Most recently, Elijah helped form the grassroots NYC Marchers movement to speak out against police brutality. Elijah’s belief in equity constantly inspires him to “act as a bridge and be a catalyst for change while standing firm as an advocate for those most in need."

Maryam Oguntola

Maryam Oguntola

My name is Maryam Oguntola, and I am a second-year honors student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice because of my passion for fairness and social justice. I am currently studying law and society with double minors in Dispute Resolution and Environmental Justice. I aspire to attend law school after receiving my bachelors’ degree and working at a nonprofit organization in an underrepresented community while practicing immigration and environmental law. My experiences as an immigrant in the United States has driven my passion in hel
Furthermore, these experiences pushed me to join the We the YOUTH Advisory Council to help educate and encourage fellow youths in seeking out equity. I am currently exploring and seeking out opportunities.

Kawan Joseph

Kawan Joseph

Kawan Joseph is a sophomore at Fairleigh Dickinson University. In 2020, he and an HS friend, Jeff Senatus started a photography business called "ShotsbyJvisions." The business allowed him to network with a variety of clientele in and around Brooklyn, NY. Keep an eye out for these up and coming creatives.

Aaron Daly Expert

Aaron Daly

Aaron Daly is the Chief Operating Officer at Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools, where he oversees Human Resources, Business Operations, IT Operations, and family and community engagement. Before Brooklyn Lab, Aaron spent eight years at Ascend Public Charter Schools, most recently served as the Network Director of Operations. Daly was responsible for operational support, coached, and provided technical and other resources to the Ascend schools' directors of operations and designed systems to ensure greater efficiency, improved data analysis, and compliance. Aaron is skilled in budget creation, analysis management, and implementation, from budgets as small as 2.4 million to budgets as large as 88 million.

Aaron was born and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in NYCHA's LaGuardia Houses. Aaron received a scholarship to attend Bridgton Academy, an independent preparatory boarding school located in North Bridgton, Maine. Daly attended Long Island University and received Degrees in computer science and criminal justice. He has also held leadership positions at The Harlem Children's Zone and serves as a Trustee on Bridgton Academy's board.

Arisha Miller Expert

Arisha Miller

In 2019, Arisha Miller started a new life in the United States. Arisha came from a family of entrepreneurs in her home country of Guyana, South America. While in the US, Arisha was introduced to Instagram, an ideal social media platform that allowed her to promote her culinary arts skills. Today, her brand, Royal Bakeria has a loyal following that she hopes will become a top Brooklyn destination for cake and dessert lovers.

Daphne Montanez Expert

Daphne Montanez

Daphne Montanez is the Assistant Commissioner for Youth Workforce Development at NYC’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD). She oversees a portfolio of youth workforce programs that prepare youth and young adults ages 14 – 24 for the world of work by providing work readiness skills, access to advanced occupational training, work-based experiences, financial literacy instruction, career exposure and support services. These programs include NYC’s Summer Youth Employment Program and Advance & Earn. Prior to her current role, she was Director of Corporate Engagement and Partnerships at DYCD where she was responsible for cultivating and managing partnerships with area companies and organizations in support of Agency programming. Daphne was also responsible for the development and management of employer partnerships for NYC Ladders for Leaders, a nationally recognized internship program. Before joining DYCD, Daphne held positions at Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase. Daphne has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing degree from St. John’s University.

Deyanira Del Rio Expert

Deyanira Del Rio

Deyanira is the co-director of New Economy Project, a New York City-based organization that works with community groups to build an economy that works for all, rooted in racial and gender justice, neighborhood equity, and ecological sustainability. Dey has worked for more than 20 years to promote cooperative and community-controlled finance, immigrants’ economic rights, and equitable neighborhood development. At New Economy Project, she has worked to advance community land trust, public banking, and financial justice campaigns, and helped launch the organization’s foreclosure prevention, DACA, and new economy loan funds.

Matther Phifer Expert

Matther Phifer

In 1999, while a full-time student at Binghamton University and working as a Family Life Specialist at the Children’s Home of Wyoming Conference, Matthew Phifer’s passion for youth and workforce development began. Upon graduation, he joined the Henry Street Settlement as a Case Manager for the New Beginnings Alternative High School at the Boys and Girls Republic. Matthew was responsible for counseling students with chronic attendance challenges and serving one-year suspensions, as well as providing referrals, and managing academic interventions with students. During his tenure at the Henry Street Settlement, Matthew worked as a coordinator for the Summer Youth Employment Program, Director of Adolescent Education Services, and eventually Director of Education Services where he oversaw Henry Street’s adolescent, early childhood, and afterschool elementary educational services, which provides result-driven academic enrichment programming to more than 2,000 young people annually.

In his role as New York Executive Director with the College Spring test prep organization, he oversaw partnership development, strategy and impact, fundraising, site management, and program execution. In 2017, Matthew returned to the Henry Street Settlement where he is currently Vice President of Education & Employment Services, leading the division where it all started.

Matthew holds two BAs in Africana Studies and Sociology, as well as a master’s degree in Social Science with a concentration in Public Administration. He also served as an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Steinhardt Department of Administration Leadership and Technology teaching Youth Organizations.

Monica S. Grant Expert

Monica Grant

Monica Sekhmet Grant is a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, and was raised in North Augusta, South Carolina. She studied business at Delaware State University because she wanted to understand how some people continued to get richer while others remained poor.

After college, Monica moved to New York City and made a career of empowering underserved communities through life coaching and community organizing. She is an advocate for economic justice and fairness for all communities, especially her own. Monica believes that most men and women of African descent naturally desire to live in safe prosperous communities that support economic growth. She has campaigned for workers' rights with the Fight For $15.00 Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, and AFSCME International Labor Union.

March 2017, Monica launched what would become the most rewarding project of her life, Young Boss Media, a concept that began with an idea to interview entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities that quickly expanded into a television network consisting of young Black producers and hosts that never believed they would one day be on TV. Monica passionately believes in allowing people to produce media that will uplift their community, even if their community is not hers. Young Boss Media has also expanded into Africa with Young Boss Africa, an initiative to highlight innovation among women and youth on the African continent.

Monica is currently based in New York City and in August of 2020, she released an autobiographical self-help workbook titled Mind Your Business and Prosper: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Being Successful. Her goal is to provide mentorship to new entrepreneurs in a down tBr>o Earth manner that was not available when she was a student. She is the true definition of a Young Boss.

Monica fervently attests to the concept that, “One builds personal power while the other build collective power. Each one is vital and should not be isolated.

Youth Experts

Mohammad Abrar Expert

Mohammad Abrar

Mohammed Abrar is a senior at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School. He started working at a very early age and by the age of 17 was managing three different Metro -Mobile stores. During COVID, he began researching for another way to make money and came across dropshipping. Today, his dropshipping business has an account with Amazon and he is thriving financially.

Olsmael Mérisier Expert

Olsmael Mérisier

Olsmaël Mérisier, a 17-year-old senior at Midwood High School, philosophically explains his name as one with no distinctive definition other than the one he chooses to attach. Olsmaël was born in Haiti, an island full of dreams, hope, and potential but unfortunately with little means of achieving goals. While living in Haiti, his passion for criminal justice developed. Through watching shows, movies, and hearing people’s stories, he grew more interested in criminal justice and decided to pursue a forensic science career focusing on developing skills that would help him become a crime scene investigator. In preparation for achieving this goal, he enrolled in College Now and Law Track courses offered by his high school.

Olsmaël feels blessed to have a high school teacher who does not stick to the curriculum but encourages students to view learning from different perspectives. He believes more inspirational educators who motivate students to think for themselves, rather than just memorize useless formulas, can positively advance creative thinking skills.

Olsmaël will always be open to learning more and along the way, he hopes to teach others what he has learned.

Kai-Lin R Expert

Kai-Lin Kwek-Rupp

Kai-Lin is a high school junior, and a member of Teens Take Charge. Last Spring, she was part of a campaign to #SaveSYEP, the Summer Youth Employment Program, which restored 35,000 spots to the program. This experience taught Kai-Lin the importance of accessible and paid youth employment programs and has encouraged her to continue working for a more equitable City, as well as an expansion of the SYEP.

Nia Eckstein

Nia Eckstein

Nia Eckstein is 15 years old, born in the United States and raised in Trinidad. She currently attends the Uncommon Collegiate Charter High School in Brooklyn. When Nia was 11 years old, she began expressing herself through art, craft, and poetry. Through her poetry, Nia has learned to understand that at any time and with any conversation, there is a deeper meaning to explore and be inspired to further expand artistic ingenuity.

Ladders for Leaders application
Ladders for Leaders is a nationally recognized program that offers high school and college students the opportunity to participate in paid professional summer internships with leading corporations, non-profit organizations and government agencies in New York City. The program is an initiative of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) and supported by the NYC Center for Youth Employment and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

Advance and Earn
Advance & Earn is a new training and employment program for youth between the ages of 16-24. Advance & Earn will help further your career through comprehensive High School Equivalency (HSE) test preparation, employer-recognized trainings, credentials and certifications, and paid internships

Train and Earn
Train & Earn is a short-term PAID certification and training program for opportunity youth ages 16-24 who are out of school and not working at the time of enrollment. Candidates receive a stipend job placement assistance for completing the program.

Resume Tips and Examples:

Rocking the Boat
Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB)
CUNY School of Professional Studies
Henry Street Settlement
Intergenerational Change Initiative
Children of Promise, NYC
Madison Square Boys and Girls Club
New Economy Project
The Lit Network
Young Boss Media

Youth Town Hall Video

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Partner LOGOS

Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB)
CUNY School of Professional Studies
Henry Street Settlement
Intergenerational Change Initiative
Children of Promise, NYC
Madison Square Boys and Girls Club
New Economy Project
The Lit Network
Young Boss Media

Workshop Partners

Dilim Dieke Workshop Partner

Dilim Dieke

In 2012, Dilim Dieke graduated with a bachelor's degree in Global Studies and Economics from Arizona State University. In 2015, she earned a Master of Social Work degree from New York University. Currently, Dilim is a program manager at Big and Littles Mentoring in New York City where she works as a licensed social worker supporting low income children and families. She also serves as a field instructor for MSW interns.

Dilim has over six years experience in case management, counseling, event planning, and program development; working within government, nonprofit, and education sectors. She is dedicated to advancing access and equity for underserved communities and empowering individuals to live a purposeful and authentic life.

Before joining the social service and non-profit sectors, Dilim led an academic enrichment program that helped middle school students develop strong educational and socio-emotional skills. She also provided resources for international students by assisting them with tools to help navigate their first-year of college.

In 2017, Dilim co-founded a young professional organization, the LIT Network, dedicated to teaching, investing, and transforming women of color.

Dipabali Chowdhury Workshop Partner

Dipabali Chowdhury

Dipabali Chowdhury is a learning and development specialist at a Fortune 500 tech company based in New York City, where she creates, coaches, and leads training sessions that focus on a client’s potential through management and leadership. She has over six years experience recruiting, coaching, and developing individuals to help them advance their skills while working within government, nonprofit, and private sector entities. Dipabali was also a Flatiron Career Coach at a WeWork company, helping software engineers find meaningful work after participating in a coding Bootcamp.

As a first-generation college graduate, Dipabali ensures access and equity are the cornerstones of everything she attempts to accomplish. Before joining the tech world, she worked with underrepresented students and helped them navigate the high school and college application process.

In 2017, Dipabali co-founded a young professional organization for women of color, the LIT Network. She is a New York City native and has a bachelor's degree from Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School.

Workshop: Personal Branding Workshop for Youth of Color - Identifying your Passions, Skills, Strengths, & Values for Career Success

Workshop Description: Did you know that 95 % of recruiters think that the job market is going to get more competitive, and job seekers that stand out are likely to benefit? In this workshop, we will help you identify and explore your unique brand (passions, strengths, skills, values, knowledge, and experiences) so you gain clarity on your ideal career path and stand out in a competitive job market. Come learn about the importance of personal branding during the job search process and how to effectively communicate your unique brand story in 30 seconds or less.
Registration link:  

Date: March 17, 2021 from 5 – 6 PM

Partner website:
The Lit Network

LIT stands for Live In Truth everything that this network encompasses. We want to make sure that we as women of color are doing the inner work to find what we are truly connected to and then finding a way to live that life despite what anyone thinks. It just so happens that when you combine these words, the acronym is LIT – something that is authentic to us as people of color, vibrant, and a real testament to living in our truth which is at the core of the work that we’re doing.

The LIT Network is a community where women of color are accepting of everyone’s journeys no matter how different they are from each other. It is a community where we can lean on each other and go through this journey together because we know it is far from easy.

We the YOUTH Advisory Council

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