Love letters to YAB (and a confession)

I think I can come clean about a couple of things now that this retreat has come and gone: First is that I’ve wanted to go on a retreat with this group since I first started talking to Amy Chou about working with them last summer, so this past weekend was quite literally a dream come true. Second is that when Amy asked me if helping youth organizations draft mission statements and constitutions was part of the work I did, I kinda’ fibbed when I said yes. The truth was more along the lines of yes, it’s work I would like to do, but no, it’s not work I’ve ever done before. When she engaged my services I remember hanging up the phone and wondering what I had just gotten myself into.

Here I am, about a year later, so very lucky to have spent two days in Jersey with this lovely bunch:


In the order that they appear in my photo stream, I’d like to say a few words about each of these fine folks.

This is Zhanna. She’s majoring in Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter. (I love interdisciplinary cultural and area studies nerds!) She is also a very diligent note taker, which earns her even more points in my book. Zhanna studied abroad in Spain and brought back keychains for her fellow YAB members. They descended like vultures on them. (“What’s ‘España’?”) Through all their hijinks she remains cool, calm, and collected. Just don’t try her patience with a long-winded, nonsensical story. She doesn’t suffer fools.

IMG_3225Jamar! Before this trip I’d only met him once. To know him is to love his bun and his wit. Mostly his bun. I can’t believe how much we all talked about his hair this past weekend. I aspire to play ping pong and/or badminton with him one day. Who can resist this bundle of positive energy?


These are Nahjee, Tony, and Vanessa (from L to R). Nahjee took her glasses off for this particular shot. What can I tell you about her that you don’t already know? That she has a very flat bear named Pavi. It regularly astounds me how quickly she picks up on so much of what I have to learn by effort. Nahjee will be serving as YAB’s secretary this coming school year (and Lindsay and I heave a collective sigh about this).

Before I met Tony I’d already read his work in Represent. It seems like his photo is in every other issue. I especially love his piece about being a reader. I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile the entire weekend. Tony, what did you end up doing on your mini adventure? Hope you had a fantastic time, wherever you went. This is a huge year for him. In addition to starting college, he is stepping into the role of YAB president in just a few days.

I swear I don’t have a bad photo of Vanessa. She can sense a camera pointing at her from yards away and is always armed with her mermaid hair and glowing smile. Vanessa is the kind of person to pick up the slack that no one else wants to deal with. She was a real team player as YAB’s first secretary and then its vice president. Unfortunately, her schedule this school year conflicts with member meetings. When I told her to go do awesome things this semester, she responded, “Every time I do something awesome, I will think of you,” at which point I pretty much could have died and gone to heaven.


Check out Ladasha and her skeptical expressionIf you meet her, call her Queen. You will know her by her regal bearing. I knew Ladasha would be one of at least two people who would be rocking bright lipstick during the trip. She did not disappoint with her outfits either. Ladasha is terrific with young kids. She is a great big sister to her adorable brother, and she wants to become a kindergarten teacher one day.


This is Keyma. She is one of the newest members of YAB, but she holds her own in any situation. Keyma is a champ at reading and napping in a noisy van and manages to get her voice heard without raising it in a boisterous group. Apparently when she warms up she’s quite the clown! She, Nahjee, and Zhanna wanted to adopt a frog named Mike and a caterpillar named Rolly.


Meet Jermaine! He is a fellow NYUer. He knocked my socks off the first day I met him by making a keen observation about Vevo and UMG. He is a man of few words, but when he speaks, everyone listens. A math whiz with a brain for business, Jermaine will continue to serve as YAB’s treasurer this coming year. I need to get him to AlleyNYC to introduce him to the tech / startup community. His secret talent is being able to tell the beginnings of a gripping ghost story (we’ll see how it develops). He has quite an imagination.


I hope Brentin doesn’t kill me for posting a photo of us from the end of the trip, but I somehow failed to get a good shot of him looking like a fashion plate. He is stepping down as YAB’s president this year in order to focus on his career as a social worker and as a graduate student in both social work and public administration. I’m so glad that his tenure on the executive board coincided largely with my workshop cycles, and I look forward to working with him as a colleague.


Voici Maurice, back at NYFC, so happy with life. He, Jamar, and Jermaine were like the three musketeers during the retreat. Maurice loves walking in the woods and is curious about animals, both in the wild and taxidermied. He is stylish and gentle and so very very earnest. He is also a man on a mission, with dreams as big as the world. I not so secretly want to recruit Maurice as a youth advisor. Let’s make it happen, okay? At the very least, drop by the Alley so we can hook you up with Moo cards.


As for my cabin mates for the weekend, here is Lindsay, who is a superlative den mother, making everyone’s s’mores dreams come true. I made sure to bring two buttoned-down shirts because I knew she would be dressed up for the retreat. This trip would not have happened without her being so on top of everything. I love our YAB pow-wows so much, so please don’t stop coming to me with questions. Good luck with the marathon training!


And last but not least, here is Amy, who kept it together when Lindsay and I were freaking out right before the trip. She possesses the unique gift of broaching sensitive topics with professionalism and a whole lotta heart. Thank you for having everyone’s back and also for giving me the privilege and pleasure (so much pleasure it makes my cheeks hurt and my heart burst) of working with your young people. Can we agree no harm, no foul?


5 thoughts on “Love letters to YAB (and a confession)

  1. Oh lord. Could I look any more of a hot mess? Thank you so much for this love letter. You captured each young person so well. I am so incredibly proud of all the work that we put in this group, and it has been so lovely seeing the group and individuals grow in many ways. And don’t worry…I had no idea what I was doing either 🙂

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