Since 1995, lower Manhattan’s nonprofit Futures and Options has given more than 2,100 kids a chance to transcend the cycle of poverty and begin new and often unexpected journeys to meaningful careers. Through work readiness training, college guidance and paid and mentored internships, Futures and Options reaches New York City teens at a formative time in their lives, guiding them to further their education and become contributing citizens. Simultaneously, private and nonprofit businesses connect to a pipeline of motivated and diverse young interns.
When Zabier Rodriguez was a senior at Bronx Aerospace Academy High School, he discovered Futures and Options and felt like he had been thrown a lifeline. Rodriguez was determined to make the most of the program.
After his parents divorced, Rodriguez, his mother and his siblings moved in with his grandparents in a rough part of the Bronx. The neighborhood exposed the teen to the harsh realities of street life. Rodriguez and his friends didn’t even feel safe hanging out on the front steps of his apartment building.
Rodriguez opted to remain focused on his studies, his passion for boxing and his part-time job at Taco Bell. But, he yearned for a greater challenge and better prospects. Rodriguez thus applied to the Futures and Options Internship Program and began collaborating with program coordinator Tyran Omary to perfect his resume and interviewing skills. Shortly after, Rodriguez clinched a marketing internship with Sciame, a construction management firm. When the teen’s internship with Sciame ended, Rodriguez attended a Futures and Options reception and impressed a Colgate-Palmolive executive with his drive and charisma to such an extent that Rodriguez was offered an interview that led to a summer internship with Colgate’s Global Consumer Affairs team.
At the close of the summer, Colgate invited Rodriguez to continue working during his freshman year at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Additionally, Sciame approached Rodriguez with another job opportunity. The teen’s solution: accept both offers and excel at Colgate and Sciame.
To find out more on how you can help Futures and Options and ensure that more New York City teens have access to career development, internships and future prospects, visit www.futuresandoptions.org.
Now a sophomore at John Jay College, Rodriguez continues to enjoy his experience at both companies. His plan is to become a construction manager and lead his own team of engineers and architects. He is grateful to Futures and Options for exposing him to career prospects, learning opportunities and new possibilities. Rodriguez remains close to the organization and recommends its programs to friends at every opportunity. His hope is that they too can strive for a brighter future.
The results of Futures and Options programming are significant. More than 90 percent of the nonprofit’s participants graduate from high school on time and pursue higher degrees. As New Yorkers and parents, there are many ways you can support the young men and women involved, from volunteering your time and approaching your employer about hiring an intern, to making a financial contribution to one of Futures and Options’ programs.