1. Describe your background in terms of successes and challenges you’ve had working with Youth or youth development organizations, in previous jobs or volunteer work.
My first work experience in a youth program was as an intern with the Museum Apprentice Program at the Brooklyn Museum. The apprenticeship provided NYC high school students with training to plan and deliver guided tours of the museum’s collections to younger visiting students. Assisting my supervisor in coordinating this program, I learned how exciting it can be to work with teenagers. Providing feedback and assistance to students eager to learn was both invigorating and overwhelming. Being only a few years older than the apprentice, I struggled with my own ideas of leadership. On many occasions I felt challenged and tested, but as time went on, I felt myself growing more comfortable with my role in the program and responsibility to the apprentices. My previous internships in environmental organizations had been challenging in many ways, but I had never felt rewarded in the way I was when apprentices came back from their tours feeling accomplished.
After graduating from college, I interned with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, an American NGO that works with refugee families in Nablus, Palestine. Building on my experiences in education, I wanted to explore more of the organizational responsibilities involved in youth development. I was given a variety of responsibilities: creating lesson plans, organizing volunteers, and monitoring and evaluation. The most challenging, however, was teaching a drama class to four classrooms of nine-year-olds. My experiences on my high school and college’s improv teams had given me a repertoire of games and ideas for lesson plans, but I didn’t speak any Arabic. I had experience with American children from a diversity of backgrounds, but I did not have any understanding of these student’s life experiences.
Working with a translator and a team of Nabulsi college students to teach this class, I learned more about their lives in Palestine’s most conservative city. Almost all of our drama students came from the five surrounding refugee camps, and TYO was a place of safety and stability for them. The class was not about getting through a lesson plan on making masks, but all about having fun. And it was! Of course there were ups and downs inherent to any classroom, and all of these challenges were made worthwhile by seeing my students star in a play we produced together. It was a valuable experience, and one that reaffirmed my excitement for youth work.
Noah with students in his drama class.
2. What do you love about working with WYG?
Coming to work and hearing phrases like “I’ve never eaten a plant before.” Knowing that because of WYG, young kids are learning about healthy foods they otherwise probably never would have tried is definitely near the top of the list. But, I think what I love most about working with WYG is being surrounded by a dedicated community that believes in the work WYG does. I’m amazed by the impact such a small organization has and I feel very honored to be a part of it.
3. What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about getting others to see their role and importance in the environment. Whether it was working with students from DC schools in the SPROUT program or the seven high school students I led through our Green Ambassador program, it was always very rewarding to see young people trying new things, even if it’s just a cherry tomato.
4. What do you see missing in WYG? How can you see this improving?
I see WYG missing a network for the many beneficiaries the organization serves through its three programs. The main demonstration garden is a beautiful space and tangible representation of the organization’s home, but much of its reach extends beyond our demonstration garden. I have already seen the way many students, like those of the Green Ambassadors program, have shown a commitment and desire to be a part of the organization beyond the duration of the program. I think creating an online network of alumni participants and a more extensive follow-up for school groups would not only provide a place to connect WYG beneficiaries, but an ongoing resource for students who want to continue supporting the mission of WYG after their programs have ended.
5. What’s your favorite food/vegetable/simple pleasure?
My favorite foods are snacks and my greatest simple pleasure is snacking. I think the food group gets a bad rap, but that’s because too much of a good thing is bad. I know a lot of kids love snacks, so I think it’s important to show them some healthy alternatives. Whether it’s burritos cut up small or apple slices– I’m loving it. Everything in moderation!
6. Anything else?
Working at WYG has solidified my career goals to work in the non-profit sector spreading environmental awareness in urban communities. I look forward to the opportunity to continue on that path and have a big impact on my community with WYG.