April 16, 2021 Category: Our Programs

Teen Credentialing Programs: Connecting and Building Leadership and Professional Skills

“I became more confident, and the program made me feel at home. Whenever I log on to Zoom, I feel like I’m talking to my friends. It’s really fun! I feel like we created a community that is very welcoming, and I liked that,” 17-year-old Environmental Education student, Nafisha said.

For many NYC teens, no longer having a summer job was just another devastating reality of the pandemic  – on top of school closures and the canceling of important school events. The Fresh Air Fund stepped in and created new Teen Programs including a Job Readiness Training Program, Internship Program and Credentialing Program and over 500 teens participated!

In collaboration with several partners, the Credentialing Program offered a range of virtual courses for students 14-17 years old to explore and build basic, industry-level skills. All students received stipends and a certificate upon completion. The programs ranged from three weeks to seven weeks and focused on Architecture and Urban Design, Environmental Education, Video Game Design and Entrepreneurship.

The programs were so successful that The Fund is expanding them for summer 2021 with our new Fresh Air Summer Teen Academy!

Environmental Education: Bringing the Outdoors Indoors

In partnership with the National Outdoor Leadership Schools (NOLS), the program focuses on environmental studies, discovering leadership skills, developing wilderness skills and exploring self and community.

Students shared more about their interests, hobbies and what is important to them through an art and writing exercise.

“I did not know about all about the different animals in New York City, but I learned about the eastern screech owls and snapping turtles living in the city in a documentary we watched” said 16-year-old Hanna.

Throughout the program, students had mentors from across the world who zoom in from countries as far away as India and Australia. This exposed students to different cultures while giving them an opportunity to connect and build relationships.

Fresh Air Environmental Education students with their NOLS counselors.

“My favorite part was when we all shared about ourselves with each other and I discovered more about other people. It was great because we are all different people with different personalities, but we were all able to work together,” Nafisha said.

Hanna shared that the most important part of the whole experience for her, “is realizing that I learned more about myself throughout the program.”

Video Game Design: More Than a Game

Students developed their own video games from the plot to design.

An introduction to computer science and video game design, through a course led by the Urban Arts Partnership, provided an opportunity for students to learn directly from professional game developers at major game development studios.

“I really enjoyed our game design days where we could collaborate in groups and use our own creative process,” 15-year-old Video Game Design student, Rohan shares. “I learned so much about game design that I didn’t really know before. Also, learning about all of the different careers you could go into within the game industry surprised me.”

14-year-old Chigozirim explored coding and expressed her creativity through the video game design process

Students completed a series of projects and experiences in computer programming and explored the educational and career opportunities in computer science. For many of the students, this was their first time learning about coding, producing music and many even designed a complete video game.

“Making video games is not just about coding, it’s the art, collaborating with others, and being able to revise and edit your work. The program really opened up my eyes to what else I can do when I grow up,” 14-year-old Chigozirim said.

Architecture and Urban Design: Discovering Creativity and Innovation

The Fresh Air Fund in partnership with PennPraxis at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design created an innovative and engaging virtual course focused on architecture and urban design for 150 Fresh Air youth, ages 14 to 17 years old.

The interactive Virtual Design program focused on two hands-on projects: a new nature center for The Fund’s Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill, NY; and designing a “breathing room” in their own neighborhoods in New York City.

Serenity, 15, drew her vision of The Fresh Air Fund’s new Nature Center.

Students received 20 hours of instruction from PennPraxis Design Fellows, all of whom are recent graduates or graduate level architecture students, each week, for seven weeks.

“I learned about global warming and that really influenced the project that we did. It also pushed me because I am not really an art person and it required me to use my creative side,” 16-year-old Khayla said.

Read more about the Virtual Design Studio program here.

Entrepreneurship: Exploring Business Management

In partnership with Youthful Savings, Fresh Air students learned how to start, build and grow their own business. The eight-week program gave students the opportunity to experience the business development process from ideation, to setting goals and pitching their plan to investors.

The program encouraged students to think creatively about ideas and strategy. Some students focused on retail – creating their own line of jewelry or clothing and others focused on offering services – building websites or writing.

Fresh Air students, Xinyuan, Jessica and Ivy started their handmade accessory business through the Youthful Savings teen programs. You can purchase your own on the Youthful Savings Website!

“I learned how to set up an online business and create a fashion line where I make my own clothing. I got the idea because when I was a sophomore, I started making prom dresses for my classmates in school and I really enjoyed it. I also make most of my clothes because I learned about buying fast fashion and how it is not sustainable for the environment,” said 17-year-old Entrepreneurship student, Melanie.

Melanie was excited to use her passion for fashion to start her own business and clothing line. During the program, she learned about research and ways to promote her business.

Students had mentorship opportunities with staff at top companies including venture capital funds, SnapChat, JPMorgan Chase and more. Students developed communication skills, professional business knowledge and had a chance to compete for an investment to their own business.

“We had a speaker join us and he talked about how he got started in his career as a real estate agent. Although I was not necessarily interested in a career in real estate, I enjoyed hearing about his experience – getting started in one field and then evolving into starting his own business. It was interesting and motivational to hear about,” Keyla, 17.

Learn more about Fresh Air Summer Teen Academy