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YP Spotlights of the Month

May: Labor and Workforce Development

We are honoring ABNY YP’s protecting and developing NYC’s workforce.
Congratulations to our May Spotlights of the Month, Alex Gleason and Justine González-Belay!

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Alex Gleason

Director of Policy, Research, and Legislation, NYC Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO Adjunct Professor, New York University and SUNY
How did you get to where you are today?

I got to where I am beacuse others saw potential in the fruits of my work, chose to give me an opporunity, and I created a lane. I work every day to pay forward the opporunities I have been given, and to continually keep me nost-to-the-grind and add value to the work I am doing, whatever that is.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the coalitional work we have done with Labor affiliates, community groups, and environmental justice advocates to address the crisis of climate change and create family-sustaining jobs.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

The biggest piece of advice I would give is to do the work – whatever it is – that you are asked to do. Sweat equity is an incredibly important part of any relationship or work you are doing. If you are willing to do whatever is necessary for the collective to win, then you will empower your whole team and create meaningful relationships that are not just transactional.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

After ten years, there is this special turn of the wrist that develops on swiping your Metrocard, and I am pretty proud of that. Also, I no longer need directions to drive around Brooklyn!

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Justine González-Belay

Young Adult Employment Specialist, Red Hook Initiative
How did you get to where you are today?

From a young age, I was self-driven and independently pursued opportunities that would enrich my life and open new doors. I value qualities such as being proactive and personable, which allows to take advantage of many opportunities around me. At almost every crossroad in my life – from choosing colleges, to my first job as a public defender investigator, pursuing a master’s degree in urban policy, switching industries to work on documentaries, and most recently returning to youth and workforce development – I asked whether I was challenging myself and putting myself in situations where I could continually grow in my career. I try my best to always stay curious and channel a growth mindset.

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the relationships I have developed throughout my career, from the mentors and teachers who helped shape me and my perspective on life, to the young adults and teens I have sought to guide in their “pursuit of joy and liberation.” These relationships are reminders of the values that brought me to this work and my contributions towards the type of equitable society I want to live in. I get fulfillment from supporting others to build towards the career they want for themselves and to overcome inevitable obstacles.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in your field?

Treat every new person like a potential partner and member of a community working together towards a shared goal. Network at every corner. People want to help those they care about, so find common ground with others. When you work in human services, and in youth development specifically, it is important to approach your colleagues and peers with the same kind of empathy and compassion you would your clients.

When did you realize that you are a New Yorker?

I was born and raised in NYC – 1 ½ generations NuYorican My identity blossomed from this beautiful city, yet I have always been plauged and blessed by a double consciousness of what I represent to others. The day my father helped me move into college in Northampton, MA, my father turned to me and said, “you have to smile and say hi to people here.” I am aware of the stereotype that New Yorkers are rude, but this was never true for me – I had always felt supported by my community. Over those four years and beyond I have had to consistently prove that stereotype wrong.

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