Strength to Strength's Young Ambassadors Program (YAP) took place from April 5-12, 2016. Participants ages 14-20 came together from 8 different countries to participate in therapeutic and empowering programs while touring New York City together. This year’s participants included those from some of our partner organizations in Argentina, Colombia, England, France, Israel, Northern Ireland, Spain and the United States. Each had their own story to share and all the participants and staff members left the week feeling a sense of strength and support. The week was one of healing, sharing, and remembrance along with a healthy dose of fun. The participants learned that they are not alone in facing the impact of terrorism in their lives. For a few days, they were able to laugh a little and enjoy being teenagers with those that understand better than anyone else how their lives changed due to terrorism.
The group spent the week visiting multiple destinations throughout New York City including The Intrepid, Central Park, Times Square, Dave and Busters, Planet Hollywood and many others. The group also had opportunities to interact with members of Strength to Strength’s Young Executives Division, which consists of young professionals who assist in spreading awareness and raising funds for programs such as YAP. They visited the 9/11 Tribute Center and 9/11 Memorial. A special tour through the 9/11 Museum began at the Survivors Tree on the plaza led by Tom Canavan, who shared his story of surviving 9/11 and insight to the participants.
The group was also hosted for lunch by Seth Gerszberg, a Strength to Strength donor and supporter who spoke to the group about the importance of building their future despite the loss of a family member. A highlight and addition to the program this year, the group was hosted by University of Hartford, Barney School of Business, where the participants were given the opportunity to think about their future. They spent the day interacting with student members of the Barney Leadership Council (BLC) through programs and visiting classes. It was a tremendous opportunity for everyone and could not have happened without Dr. Martin Roth, Dean, Barney School of Business, Dr. Celia Lofink, Undergraduate Program Director and BLC President, Nicola Winogradoff and Strength to Strength Board Member and 9/11 survivor, Ari Schonbrun.
Combined with special therapeutic programming led by Paulo Pimentel, psychotherapist and board member of Strength to Strength, and Jo Dover, the participants were supported while telling their often highly emotional stories. Some of the support staff have also been directly impacted by terrorism and shared their stories too. They attended various workshops during the week including sharing experiences, art therapy, leadership and teaching terrorism.
A special evening hosted by Strength to Strength Board Member, Hillary Barr, gave the participants an opportunity to spend time with time with and hear from Maurice Duarte, 9/11 survivor and FDNY firefighter. Maurice inspired the Young Ambassadors to live life and move forward.
As the week came to an end and the group finished the closing program, everyone realized that not only was this experience life-changing but the friendships made in that week, were just the beginning. These young people left knowing that they had support and people they could count on going forward. They are now part of the ever-growing Strength to Strength family – and they know they can count on us to be there for them when they need us.
A special thank you to Paulo Pimentel, Board Member of Strength to Strength, for the months of work he put in to make the program successful and Andi Koppelman, co-chair , Strength to Strength Young Executives Division, for assisting in coordinating the weekly activities for the participants.
The week would not be possible with our partner organizations that participated on this years program including CELTYV - Por las Victimas del Terrorismo de Argentina of Argentina, Omagh Support and Self Help Group of Northern Ireland, Association Francaise des Victimes du Terrorisme of France, OneFamily Fund of Israel, Asociacion de Ayuda A LasVictimas Del 11-M of Spain, Fudacon Colombia Conmemoria of Colombia and Strength to Strength's new Boston Division.
There are many individuals, groups and companies that have made this program possible and they will be thanked for their generosity personally. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Board of Directors of Strength to Strength and the Young Executives Division, which is the young leadership arm of the organization and their members, who went out of their way to provide a welcoming and supportive week for the Young Ambassadors Program.
For more information or to participate in the next Young Ambassadors Program, please contact Sarri Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org.