July: Youth Career Pathways
Congratulations to the ABNY Young Professionals July Spotlights of the Month – Sierra Baksh, Student Engagement Associate at New York Jobs CEO Council and Nariman Heikal, Senior Director of Higher Ed Partnerships at iMentor. They are both working to support career exploration and internships, fellowships, and employment opportunities for NYC youth!
During my elementary school days as I completed my Black History Month book reports, I affirmed silently to myself that I wanted to become someone that another person would read and write about some day. Holding this in my heart, I decided to pursue a career that would help to positively impact fellow people of color. In my role as a Program Manager at a small non-profit, I discovered the world of workforce development. I implemented a career readiness curriculum designed to help black and brown high school students envision where they saw themselves in the world of work. This experience has helped me transition into current my role as a Student Engagement Associate at the New York Jobs CEO Council supporting the Director of Student Engagement and Events, Sarah Hassett. Our team has planned several successful events including the New York Jobs CEO Council’s very first Career Development Forum, a full-day of career readiness programming designed to bridge the gap between CUNY students and New York City’s top employers. I am also a proud and Baruch College and Macaulay Honors alum, and I find it extremely rewarding to be help CUNY students establish their own career paths. The most exciting part about this experience is that we are only just getting started with the Jobs Council’s student programming. I am extremely privileged to be collaborating with my brilliant colleagues to help bring the New York Jobs CEO Council’s mission to life.
Every morning, I wake up and spend the first few minutes of my day in gratitude for being able to take a breath on a brand-new day. I am most proud of my ability to practice gratitude and fortify my faith in God when I wake up every single day. I am a firm believer that each new day means that you have a mission to accomplish and brings a brand-new opportunity to show up as your best self. Every other accomplishment is extra because my first accomplishment is life.
My advice would be to think of each project, big or small, as a way to have an impact on another person’s life. This outlook has helped me shift my perspective to complete each task with attentiveness. I’ve learned that it’s best to tackle each project, big or small with a positive outlook, and not to be afraid to ask questions and voice my own opinions.
I have known since day one that I was a New Yorker. I take pride in being born and raised in Canarsie, Brooklyn. I have been surrounded by Caribbean immigrants hustling to support their families and put food on the table my entire life. Brooklyn has made me who I am, and I will always carry it with me wherever I go.
I truly believe it takes a village to uplift individuals and communities at large. I am here because of the unconditional support, coaching, and love poured into me by family, friends, and mentors. As a first-generation American and the first in my family to earn a college degree, my personal evolution and professional trajectory are a testament to the power of a postsecondary credential. Attending and graduating college opened doors for me that I never in my wildest dreams knew existed and the guidance of dedicated mentors helped to propel me even further in my career.
I am most proud of the powerful work I have had the honor of supporting at iMentor over the last 8 years. When I first joined iMentor in 2015, I started as a Program Manager providing direct service support to 100 mentor-mentee 9th grade pairs at the Marble Hill School for International Studies. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of expanding my roles and responsibilities over the years, and now I am overseeing and launching a new and exciting body of work: collaborating with CUNY partners to design and implement industry-specific mentoring programming to help them launch their careers. I want to see more first-generation college graduates secure strong first jobs by building stronger professional networks, leveraging the support of a dedicated mentor in the field, and feeling confident of their belonging within their respective workplaces and sectors. This work will also help to support companies to welcome CUNY graduates with more inclusive and informed environments that will set all stakeholders up for success!
Ever walk into a room or a meeting and get that gut-sinking feeling that maybe you don’t belong or that you’re not as smart as everyone else? Hold on to that feeling and think, “What would I tell my students if one of them were to tell me they were feeling this?” Tell yourself what you would tell that young person – you belong here, and your voice does matter!
I realized I was a New Yorker when I realized I started having a very strong opinion about the appropriate viscosity of a good bagel (it’s somewhere in between the right amount of chewy and slightly toasted). For any fellow bagel-loving New Yorkers who want to join our incredible community of mentors, join us at the next orientation to learn more! You can sign up here 😊