Stories of Sorrow, Redemption and Rebirth: Innovation Summer 2020
In 2020, The Glass Files participated in the first 100% remote MetaBronx Innovation Summer, which welcomed 100 student apprentices from 3 Bronx high schools.
MetaBronx gathered 10 mentors including entrepreneurs from current and former startup cohorts as well as college students from partner Olin College of Engineering to give high school apprentices exposure to a variety of businesses, careers and industries.
In the first half of the program, participants met with each mentor to get to know their area of expertise. Then team selections began: each student chose to work directly at a startup — The Glass Files, Neture, beepboop or Proneer — or join a project team focused on marketing, entrepreneurship, game design, software engineering, graphic design and finance.
The historians and writers of The Glass Files team documented the program by interviewing just about everyone, read about the Summer experience below!
My name is Summer, I am a rising 10th grader at DREAM Charter High School, and I am pioneering the very first remote summer apprenticeship program at MetaBronx, along with fellow students from Comp Sci High and Riverdale Country School, all high schools in The Bronx, NY.
My group is part of The Glass Files team and our mentor’s name is Sarah. She is the founder of The Glass Files. As one of my colleagues summed up during a work session, The Glass Files is about storytelling. Mariam also came up with the theme of our article:
You don’t have to be a product of your environment, you can be a product of your own imagination.
Over the course of this program we’ve all heard many stories, and learned much about the mentors we worked with. Many of us can pinpoint the most compelling story we’ve heard during the program, and we decided to collect them by interviewing all the MetaBronx mentors.
We were most inspired by stories of mentors who started with nothing and turned it into something great. Here are their words, mixed in with our own experiences and opinions, and illustrated by original art and design work from the Innovation Summer 2020 cohort.
Marlin Jenkins, founder and CEO of Neture, was the first to respond to our interview. He told us about how losing his father and seeing his mother struggle with addiction at a young age strengthened him, though he didn’t realize it at the time.
“My mom and my twin were equally big factors for my success. My mom showed love, even if she couldn’t be the mom we wanted and my brother showed strength, even if he was physically weak. The outside environment tried to hinder, but love and strength provided me with the courage needed to push through and commit to achieving something.”
“He had all the factors in life (love and strength), even with the hard times in life he always looked on the bright side of things.” – Jaylene Adames, Senior at DREAM
“It stood out to me because I can relate to him when he said, ‘I’ve been so lucky to have diverse experiences and people in my life. Life definitely put people on my path that I’m very lucky to have with me. They have all been amazing, talented and supportive people.’”
Nicole Faraji, founder and CEO of Proneer, is the first of her family to migrate to the United States from Iran. She told us that her success came through “hard work and perseverance, my parents have always been against my decisions in every aspect of life so I learned to focus on my inner voice instead.”
“Nicole stood out to me because my mom’s side of the family came from the Dominican Republic and it was hard for them to start brand new in a new country. My mom was in the 2nd-grade trying to learn English and she struggled with that a lot because my grandparents only knew Spanish. She struggled with learning everything over again but she made it and now she runs a groomer store. On my dad’s side of the family, only my grandma and uncle came from the Dominican Republic. My dad was born in America but he had struggles too. My grandma was taking care of four kids while having to work two jobs. I admire what my family went through because now it helps me push myself harder to become a better and successful person.” – Jaylene Adames, Senior at DREAM
It was cool to work with Katie because she’s in college (about to finish) and she’s closer to our age.
“I lived in Brazil for three years when I was in Elementary School for my dad’s job, and I think that definitely changed my life. It was a difficult adjustment to move far away from friends and family at that age, but it definitely made me realize that the world was bigger than my neighborhood at a younger age.” – Katie Thai-Tang, Olin College of Engineering
“Everybody was saying their biggest accomplishment but she still feels like she hasn’t had a big accomplishment. I feel like that shows the hardworking person she is and how she’s not easily satisfied.” – Jaelynn Cruz, Sophomore at Comp Sci High
In the middle of the program we had a special guest speaker: Nakaweesi Katongole tuned in to tell us about a new and innovative approach to healing called Narrative Medicine. She showed us how doctors can use stories in a clinical setting to connect with patients in a profound way, and we completed a Narrative Medicine exercise together based on the dangers of the “single story”, inspired by the Nigerian author Chimananda Adichie. We learned that single stories about people are harmful, because they lead to stereotypes and tunnel vision when it comes to understanding others.
“Where I grew up people always looked at me and my friends and family as poor and dirty because we were African. They used to talk about us, treat us without much respect and also steal things from us. We would sometimes talk to them but they would try to get the building to give us a violation as if it was their building (in my building three violations can get you kicked out). We were just kids and they were grown so there wasn’t really much we could do. But we honestly didn’t care about what they said or did, we just kept to ourselves. Since it was a lot of us we didn’t need any validation from anybody else because we got it from each other. Instead of trying to please everyone and fit in we just did our own thing. Eventually they saw we didn’t care about what they thought of us so they stopped. I feel like that this is an example of the guiding thesis of this article, because instead of trying to fit in and be part of everyone else in the community, we did our own thing and went and did what we wanted to do with our imagination.” – Fatima Ceesay, Sophomore at DREAM
We are an international community, and the mentors we are working with come from all over the world, including our hometown, The Bronx. Nicole Tirado, another MetaBronx mentor and founder of Tearado Tech, is from the Bronx too, and she told us a story about a time she’ll never forget when she was 16.
“I thought it was cool to get drunk and cut class on my birthday and all I remember was waking up in Metropolitan Hospital on 96th and 1st Ave to my Mother crying and my Father shaking his head at me. I remember my Father saying ‘don’t end up like me!’ and my Mother saying ‘you decide what you’re going to learn from this and that will impact the rest of your life.’ The embarrassment and disappointment I felt changed my life for the better. I realized how important it is to stay true to myself and make choices I will never regret.”
“What stood out to me from spending time with Nikki Tirado on twitter and social media was the fact that she was engaged in real-life problems. I feel as if she used social media in a different way such as using her voice and staying positive. She was not on twitter just for fun, she was invested in the real world and was truly interested in everything that has been going on. In my personal opinion, I feel like that is not something you see every day because not many people know how truly important these real-world problems are. Therefore, seeing how engaged Nikki was on twitter showed how much she cared about relevant situations.” – Jaelynn Cruz, Sophomore at Comp Sci High
“Nikki’s story about being admitted into the hospital because of alcohol poisoning really resonated with me because especially in PWI (Predominantly White Institution) culture, there’s this overbearing pressure to be ‘down’ and do cool things like getting drunk on school nights or going to parties. Some are headstrong and know not to do it, but others feed into it and end up driving themselves down a deep hole that they might not be able to get out of.” – Mariam Fofana, Freshman at Riverdale Country School
“The biggest factor that contributed to my success has been my inability to quit. I have been relentless in my pursuit of learning, applying feedback, holding myself accountable and being authentic in my professional relationships. My environment has not hindered that, it’s actually emboldened it. Being from the Bronx I have learned that I have one shot, one chance at every opportunity. I have learned that I need to blaze my own trail, create my own blueprint and find ways to self-validate and stay motivated regardless of what anyone says.” – Nicole Tirado
“In every project I have ever worked on I have always done extra work that I wasn’t paid to do. I do that not for the client, employer, whomever; I do it for me, to learn more and do a better job. It does translate into clients loving to work with me though 🙂 ” – Miguel Sanchez
As Jaylene summed it up: “Hard work pays off, chase anything you put your mind to.”
To conclude, Jaelynn summarizes why we wrote this article:
Being a product of your environment is being what people want you to be rather than being your own person. A product of your environment is having to fit in and be just like everyone else.
Meanwhile, when you are a product of your imagination, you can be whoever you want to be and do what you want with the power of working for it.
Remember that you are the one capable of changing the way people view you, not others’ opinions. Taking the same actions as everyone else is overrated.
I say this because being unique is different and you have a greater chance of being more inspirational than someone who does the same thing as everyone else.
To be scared is normal but, if you are always letting fear get in your way, then you won’t get anywhere you want in life.
Let your voice be heard instead of hiding in the shadows wondering what could’ve happened if you shared your differences. Everything does not come easy, you have to decide which path is right to take, whether it’s trying to fit in or living life your way.
Story and artwork brought to you by the MetaBronx Innovation Summer 2020 cohort.
The Glass Files Writing team: Daisy Lopez, Fatima Ceesay, Jaelynn Cruz, Jaylene Adames, Jonathan Orbe, Justin Carnegie, Kedron Laudat, Mamoudu Sillah, Mariam Fofana, Summer Murrell.
The Neture team: Alaya Padial, Benjamin Malejko, Brianna Lucy, David Raji, Donathian (Donnie) Stewart, Jaida Murrell, Joberlye Hernandez, Kayla McPherson, Matthew Fabian, Sophia Hurtado-Lage.
The beepboop team: Adama Fall, Aida Vivanco, Alexa Rodriguez, Amani Phillips, Elisse Sanchez, Jadrien Penner, Mohamed Sy, Nialexis Alvarez, Priscila Campos-Bravos, Robert Davis.
The Proneer team: Angel Pagan, Colby Aviles, Emily Sosa, Emmanuel Jimenez, Jaylen Jones, Liyah Kemp, Perla Mosquea, Sofia Egol, Troy Peterson-Maniram.
The MetaBronx Marketing team: Alexander De La Cruz, Axel Rodriguez, Christian Ruiz, David Nanpersaud, Isaac Lopez, Kevin Pepin, Madison Tolentino, Nasheem Jones.
The Entrepreneurship team: Aden Davis, Britney Guillen, De’John Bagley, Erwins Branche, Jerinsen Diaz, Jordan Samuels, Jose Aviles, Michael Umpierre-Flores, Tre-Shure Rhodes.
The Games team: Ashia Benjamin, Carl VanPutten, Deon (ink) Jeffrey, Joel Santiago, Kedroy Laudat, Matthew Escalera, Momy Seck, Shaniya Mccoy, Shawn Reeves.
The Software Engineering team: Jacob Pantoja, Jayden Medina, Joshua Ramos, Kamali Frederick, Krista Liverpool, Ryan Fuentes, Steven Escalera, Tyheen Williams, Victor Sanchez.
The Design team: Asucena Calva, Deniyah Jordan, Diego Rivas, Issad Jimenez, Juan (Evan) Moran, Leeana Torres, Luis Sanchez, Marilyn Moreno, Samantha Carrion.
The Finance team: Aditya Chand, Carlos Marin, Genesis Reyes, Isis Jurado-Collazo, Iving Basnight, Jaelynn Perez Jimenez, Janelle Morgan, Jasmine Zacamitzin, Lizé Parker.
The MetaBronx Innovation Summer 2020 program and the MetaBronx Fellows cohort was made possible by a collaboration between all the partners:
– Comp Sci High https://www.compscihigh.org/
– DREAM Charter High School https://www.wearedream.org/
– Riverdale Country School https://www.riverdale.edu/
– Olin College of Engineering https://www.olin.edu/
– Village Capital https://vilcap.com/
– scenyc https://www.scenyc.com/
– Mass Ideation https://www.massideation.com/
and the startups:
– Bazaar https://www.metabronx.com/#startups
– beepboop https://beepboop.us/
– Concourse Markets http://www.concoursemarkets.com/
– Future Local https://www.futurelocal.nyc/
– Neture https://neture.co/
– Proneer https://www.proneer.co/