Apprentices: International Edition

The living history of American immigration in The Bronx

Handwritten story in Chinese by Wei Hao Ou from CIHS.

Since the days of Jonas Bronck, the first Swedish settler to make his home on native Lenape land in 1639, the area known today as The Bronx has welcomed waves of migration from Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the American South.

The timeless legacy of people moving around the globe to seek a better life is alive and well here in The Bronx, where immigrants and 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation Americans mingle, create culture, power the economy and snap billions of selfies. For the first time in history, we are documenting every moment in history.

In this article, veteran apprentice and prolific writer Esmarlin Fernandez takes us through the work based learning experiences of students from the Grace Dodge CTE campus as they learn the ropes of American startups in the 2018-2019 school year.

A full house on orientation day. Schedules and payment are frequent topics of discussion throughout the apprenticeship experience as participants learn to manage their time and finances.

This year at The Glass Files and MetaBronx our apprenticeship centered on a collaboration between two Career and Technical Education (CTE) high schools: Crotona International High School (CIHS), whose vocational expertise is media production, and Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (BASE). Both schools have been pioneers of Work-Based Learning with local startups for the last 3 years.

CIHS is an international high school, meaning that it is made up of people from different cultures who speak many different languages and recently arrived in the United States.

Founder Sarah Poyet conducts the welcome interview on orientation day with CIHS Sophomore Aichatou Alfa Toga.

It’s an interesting experience to be collaborating with CIHS students because we all learn from each other, we engage on making projects like this blog article by working together and communicating, because as The Glass Files founder Sarah says, “We have the solution, only if we work together.”

My name is Esmarlin Fernandez and I am a Sophomore at BASE who has been working at MetaBronx since Summer of 2018 when I participated in CareerCLUE. I have also worked with students like Bright and Shadman who are currently Seniors at BASE and who have been working here since their Sophomore year of high school.

From left: Bright Amoateng, Shadman Chowdhury and Muhfasul Alam in the conference room testing their wares in preparation for CS Fair 2019.

Joining a software development team, by Shadman Chowdhury, Senior at BASE:

“I have been working at The Glass Files as a software development intern for over two years now. As a part of a professional development team, I got to learn a lot about the real world situation that a tech company goes through. And especially working at a startup gave me the advantage of learning entrepreneurship skills such as promoting ideas and user experience. Being a member of a collaborative development team, I learned a lot about Ruby on Rails since the main web app is built on it and now I am gaining the skills on Java to create a native Java Android app.”

A row of superstars with Shadman in focus, present and future leader of the world, valedictorian for his class at BASE.

MetaBronx and The Glass Files enable us develop our skills as young entrepreneurs and business owners. Founders Sarah Poyet and Philip Shearer focus on assigning projects that align with our interests. My biggest interest is writing and I have had the opportunity to be one of the main writers for this and last year’s blog article, I have also published my writing pieces on The Glass Files and for its social media, and this allows me to continue sharpening and contributing my writing and media skills outside of school.

This cohort’s blog article showcases the writings and photography from students who are continuing their apprenticeship at The Glass Files and MetaBronx, or working for the first time on media production, marketing, hardware, software, business development, accounting and legal. Many of us have also helped with conducting Digital Historian workshops with The Glass Files in our own classrooms, where we provide guidance and technical support to our classmates who haven’t yet experienced working at MetaBronx.

Ariel Eusebio, Ramón Garcia, José Disla and Julio Cordero from CIHS confront a data and logistics problem.

Learning English and Business, by Oumou Diallo, Junior at CIHS:

“My name is Oumou and I’m a student from Crotona International High School. When I came to CIHS I was very confused and sad because I was a new student and I don’t speak English, but fortunately I found students who speak my other languages, French and Fulani. I like my school because it’s an international school, and the students and teachers helped me a lot so that I can adapt to the new language. There is a teacher who helps the students find jobs, I went to talk to her and she found me an opportunity at The Glass Files and MetaBronx. I was very very happy to have this work because The Glass Files is a technology company that builds software to connect family stories to history. The job helps me to have more professional experience, it helps me to know about computers, and to be comfortable speaking with people in public.”

Handwritten story in Arabic by Oumou Diallo.

Dariel Eusebio and Mahdi Chowdhury from CIHS work on server technical maintenance with TGF co-founder and lead engineer Elias Gabriel.

Sales and Business Development, by Noelia Reinoso, Sophomore at CIHS:

“My name is Noelia, and I’m also from Crotona. When I started working at MetaBronx, I first put the business card information into the computer, which was very interesting since it helps you to know much more about different types of business; then I began to organize the cards in alphabetical order, which is useful because when you have everything in order you can find it again.

After that I started writing articles for The Glass Files on different topics which were very important and very helpful, not only for me, but also for all who read about them to learn about my culture.

Last summer I was working taking care of two babies, it was a very nice experience, but if I compare it with what I’m doing at MetaBronx, it’s a big difference because at MetaBronx I learn to work in business which is super important and it helps me more in life.

I do not have much time working at MetaBronx but all I can say from my experience here is that ‘you do not have to be big to start, but you must start to be great.’”

Hardware and software teams collaborated on a major overhaul of the local server and data infrastructure, in particular expanding capacity, installing fresh operating systems and server stacks, and setting up offsite backup of the entire data set.

Transcribing the Bronx Senior Storytellers, by Anyeska Mendoza, Sophomore at CIHS:

“My name is Anyeska, I’m from Crotona International High School, and I started to work at The Glass Files in November.

At The Glass Files I have learned and done many things that will help me in these moments and in my future. As part of marketing I worked on adding full descriptions to the videos that BASE students made last summer, of the Bronx Senior Storytellers. The videos were interviews with elderly people who talked about their lives, and how they became the people they are today. I started with the transcripts of each person, which basically are written documents of everything that each person said in the interview. I edited some mistakes in the writing such as commas, periods and some words in English that were not well written, and ordered everything in parts so that people who enter The Glass Files can watch the videos and read the stories.

This job is very important and it helped me practice writing and improve my skills with the English language. At every moment we students have to write essays, make presentations and many things that have to do with writing and spelling, and this helped me become a better writer.”

Now things are getting serious: Ali Shahid and Brinda Kemgne from CIHS suit up to do a deep technical cleaning of the hardware, in a bid to strengthen the exchange of intellectual property between Pakistan and Cameroon.

The virtuous circle between classroom and workplace, by Sharbie Rivaz, Senior at CIHS:

“Every year the Seniors at CIHS work on a project to find a resolution for different issues in the community. This year we focused on topics such as immigration, crime, domestic violence, sanitation, segregation, housing and food access.

For instance, here in The Bronx there are a lot more bodegas than supermarkets, and they sell mostly preserved fast foods that cause people to develop diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart problems.

At each step of the process we documented our research on The Glass Files, we wrote letters to elected officials to raise awareness, and we edited short films to educate the people that we presented at Belmont Library near our school.”

Sharbie Rivaz presents her Senior GWPP portfolio project on the topic of food access in The Bronx at the Belmont Library with her team.

The Accounting Team, by Noelia Reinoso and Oumou Diallo:

“Accounting is the process of keeping financial accounts. It is important because it helps entrepreneurs to file taxes and make better business decisions by providing them with financial information. The accounting team’s role is to collect and record The Glass Files’ and scenyc’s financial operations. In this project, we are learning how to do the basics of accounting and how to do group work.”

The finance team, led by Brinda Kemgne, Mariama Baro and Olivia Amoussou, takes over the conference room.

“The reason that Brinda and Mariama are on the accounting team is that they both want to be Certified Public Accountants (in French, ‘expert comptable’) as their career. But Olivia wants to be a singer so she is on the team because she likes money.”

Frequently cited as a brilliant example of leadership and initiative, the team has completed accounting and helped to file taxes for 3 different businesses, 3 years in a row. From left: Mariama, Brinda and Olivia.

The Legal Brief, by Bremely Tapia, Senior at CIHS:

“My name is Bremely Tapia, I am a student of Crotona International High School. I will be writing about the lawsuit that happened in The Glass Files. The reason why I am interested in writing about this topic is that when I graduate from high school, I want to study to become a lawyer. Working on this topic will help me to have some experience about what a lawsuit is and how it is carried out.

According to what I investigated, there is a problem that happened between the tenant of the third floor and the tenants of the second floor, scenyc, where The Glass Files and MetaBronx are located. The tenants on the second floor are dealing with the thickness of the ceiling that separates them from the third floor. They’re also dealing with the installation of the plumbing.

The employees had the bad experience that they felt that the ceiling could collapse. Loud noises were heard from the third floor daily, and heavy impacts on the the floor caused wood, paint, moths and dust to fall on the heads of the tenants on the second floor. The other incident they dealt with was the plumbing, first it started with a little water but then it was growing until it was already quite big puddles, it became really a serious problem and we had to call the Fire Department.

Employees gave their statements of everything that happened and how much it scared them. Some other students working in this area, such as Julio C, Orlenys, Christopher and Ariel, took photographic evidence about the above problems.

It is a sad situation because it shows that we do not have neighbors who are worried about what is happening around us. They don’t realize that what affects us also affects them in another way. We are supposed to be a community and take care of each other but that is also not possible for the reason that the landlord of the building does not care either.”

Handwritten story in Urdu by Ali Shahid from CIHS.

A moment of quiet and focused work with Jonathan Vasquez, 3rd year in the Success Via Apprenticeship (SVA) Program. Jonathan’s placement with us changed the game and helped The Glass Files and MetaBronx scale our programs in and out of schools. He now teaches Graphic Design at Alfred E Smith Career and Technical High School.

We all come from different places and religions and it’s important to understand and to respect each other and sometimes that is difficult. It’s in our human nature to be scared, overwhelmed, and nervous when we’re introduced to new aspects of life.

We know there are other cultures, we just don’t know how to connect or how to understand people who are unlike us, and most of the time we don’t try.

That’s where cultural diversity matters. If we surround ourselves with people from our own ethnicity, we don’t challenge our view of the world. In reality, it is home to billions of people who migrated all over the planet for complex reasons that we learn about through History.

This year was the first time that MetaBronx and The Glass Files combined two schools and I am glad that they did. I have learned a lot, made new friends, stepped out of my comfort zone, and learned about different countries. We all worked together to make projects like the NYC CS Fair booths happen, which we will tell you about in the next article!

Once we put all our differences aside we can develop great friendships and learn from each other and explore new things. It can be scary but it’s worth the try.

Assumptions are never going to go away, but at least we can be open minded.

Handwritten story in Bengali by Muhfasul Alam from BASE.

Story by the Writing team: Esmarlin Fernandez, Julio Cordero, Noelia Reinoso, Oumou Diallo, Yessica Disla.
Media preparation by the Media production team: Admir Kolenovic, Anyeska Mendoza, Julio Rivera, Sharbie Rivaz.
Event production and business development by the Marketing team: Aichatou Alfa Toga, Gabriela Bruno, Hilarry Perez, Luis Garcia, Wei Hao Ou, Yasmine Kone.
Liaison between Marketing and Software teams: Carlos Nunez, Keury Garcia Vasquez, Lianny De La Cruz, Orlenys Contreras.
Coding and technical implementation by the Software team: Ali Shahid, Angel Diaz, Bright Amoateng, Jose Disla, Gisselle Diego, Mahdi Chowdhury, Mariyama Chowdhury, Muhfasul Alam, Shadman Chowdhury.
Equipment and work space made possible by the Hardware team: Ariel Eusebio, Brian Rivas, Cristopher Beltre, Dariel Eusebio, Ramon Garcia.
Finance Team: Brinda Kemgne, Mariama Baro, Olivia Amoussou.
Special projects (the sanity team): Bremely Tapia, Nicely Pimentel.
Photography by Admir Kolenovic, Sharbie Rivaz and just generally everyone.

The Glass Files and MetaBronx 2018-2019 school year program was made possible by a collaboration between:
– NYC Department of Education Office of Post-Secondary Readiness
– NYC Career and Technical Education
– Success via Apprenticeship
– Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (BASE)
– Crotona International High School (CIHS)
– scenyc
– Mass Ideation

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1 comment

  • The Glass Files

    October 28, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    Bravo to all the students from BASE and CIHS who do such excellent work. Keep it up!!

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