Kiana first learned about RSYP two years ago. “My friends and I went to a dance they offered and had a lot of fun. At the dance, I saw a poster about RSYP’s programs and it seemed like a great opportunity.”
Today, Kiana is on the Youth Operational Board and involved in the Mentoring Program, “which is helping me with my interest in Spanish by pairing me with a Spanish-speaking mentor.”
“Our community should support RSYP because it is an important part of what makes Great Barrington a great place to live. It is vital for youth to have a place to go that they can trust will be open to them. Please give generously to make sure that happens.”
To read Kiana’s appeal letter, click here.
“RSYP got me excited and made it clear. EVERYBODY needs a big idea!” – SEAN, Apprentice Boat Builder
Sean McTeigue walked into the RSYP Drop-in Center to make a new plan. He was 16 and getting ready to drop out of high school. “There is stuff I want to learn, but it’s not in school,” he told me. Sean spent the next two days at the Drop-in Center talking with staff, making lists of topics he wanted to learn about, networking, researching different potential paths, and learning how to get a Graduate Equivalency Diploma. He talked with his parents and guidance counselors and put together a plan—to keep learning.
Sean was poised to become another drop-out statistic. He was eager to reject the confines of high school, but lost as to where to go next. Would he let the shifting winds of fate determine his course or would he become the captain of his own destiny? Two years later, this is his story. – Ananda Timpane, Executive Director
ANANDA: When did you first get involved with RSYP?
SEAN: I was in ninth grade – 2011. I absolutely hated school. To me RSYP was a breath of fresh air. It’s an easy place to meet people like you who actively want to get something out of life – people thinking big, proposing ideas. It can really get exciting. Never would I have thought that it would be so easy and fast to switch to different lifestyles or even just one’s focus. RSYP got me excited and made it clear. EVERYBODY needs a big idea!
ANANDA: What got you involved? What did you do?
SEAN: I attended YOB [Youth Operational Board] meetings and would show up randomly with all sorts of questions regarding work, play, and sometimes personal guidance. There were stretches of times when I would only pop in and say hello. Other times I would wake up and head over for the day. That’s the great thing about RSYP: no one is expecting you to be there, just show up and everyone’s friends.
ANANDA: I met you at RSYP at a time when you were starting to make plans to drop out of high school. What was it about school that wasn’t working for you? What was most important to you about your experience at RSYP?
SEAN: I’ve never liked being cooped up in a building with other miserable kids and adults who just want to retire or who are fresh outta college ready to tell you everything, every same detail of what they learned in high school. What I took from RSYP was hearing what the people around you have to say – your friends, parents, peers you never even met yet, teens who literally stumble in – all of these people have something worth talking about.
ANANDA: What did you do when you left school? What are you doing now? Successes?
SEAN: I was in New Zealand working as first mate on a gaff rigged ketch. My job was to crew and to make people comfortable. I freekin’ loved it. I’ve always felt comfortable with the sea, and since I was tiny I loved the idea of a houseboat. Between my new love for sailing and making things with my hands, I looked to wooden boat building. Now I’m in an apprenticeship in wooden boat building in Rockland, ME. I am happy here. I’m building a 12-foot Nina sailing and rowing skiff. People say wooden boat building is a dying art. I don’t like the sound of that. I’m nothing but lucky to be a part of it all. I’m not sure I want to make a living with wooden boat building but hopefully I’ll have the chance to build my own blue water cruiser.
ANANDA: Did RSYP support for youth empowerment have an impact on what you are doing now?
SEAN: When I traveled to New Zealand, I spent a lot of time with different people, most of which where older than me. Some of them had never traveled anywhere alone. If you’ve even hung out in a hostel, you can find all sorts of cool people. I noticed that the ones who have traveled a lot have really good communication skills, and it was fun to sit around and hear about the world from different point of views. When I think of RSYP, I get a picture of it being like the living room to a hostel. All sorts of people are drawn there. What I’m trying to say is that RSYP can be an overseas experience, which to me is probably the best thing for Great Barrington youth.
“What I took from RSYP was hearing what the people around you have to say – your friends, parents, peers you never even met yet, teens who literally stumble in – all of these people have something worth talking about.”
“As a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, I find myself not only looking forward to my career but also looking back to how I have made my way to this achievement. The organization I owe my greatest gratitude to would be Railroad Street Youth Project. There are many reasons why I feel as though I am indebted to Railroad Street. The most obvious would be helping me find my true passion in life, food. RSYP aided this epiphany by partnering me, as well as other local youths, with local restaurant chefs in an apprenticeship called the Berkshire Culinary Arts Program. I realized my passion for the first time when I broke down my first chicken. Most teenage girls wouldn’t become instantly thrilled when a whole chicken and a knife is placed in front of them. But not this girl!
My experience at the BCAP was not limited to simply cooking, either. I also gained many job opportunities and mentors along the way. After taking four or more terms with the BCAP I was offered an internship with a guest chef from the dinner events, and eventually I found my way to attending the world’s premier culinary college. And that’s my story.
I would like to not only point out the obvious facts about my time with RSYP such as being introduced to the organization by my high school counselor, being the first graduate of the program to also graduate from culinary school, and so forth, but also tell you about the more personal strengths that Railroad Street has been the catalyst for.
Age discrimination is a widely overlooked issue in today’s society. Most youth often have their ideas, thoughts and opinions silenced simply because of their age. A large amount of adults seem to believe that because youth have experienced less that they have nothing to add to the conversation. When what can actually happen is the opportunity for fresh ideas to be brought to the table and new solutions introduced. RSYP has never made me feel that I am less of anything because of my age, and having that ideal at a young age has transcended into my working career. Always voicing what I can add to the team, and always being heard.
As a young woman, RSYP has also provided me with strong female leaders. Some of these leaders have known me since I was fourteen and are still in contact with me today. I cannot overstate how important it is for young girls to have women in the community to look up to for support and guidance.
Railroad Street has been and currently is a major support system for me. Whether it be me showing up at an event to tell my story, keeping up with the directors, or if I have a question about my direction in my career or personal life, I know that I can always count on Railroad Street to accept me with open arms and an excited grin. Railroad Street is ever-changing their programs to meet the needs of the community while retaining their focus on their mission. Having come from such a supportive community, I know the value of giving back to something you believe in. And although I am only twenty, I would love to have a scholarship for youth in my community someday. It goes without saying, but the donation would be towards the Railroad Street Youth Project.”