It Can Be Done: Alanis' Story



happy teen on the streets of Brooklyn

Y Home Branch?  
West Side

Current college and major?  
The City College of New York; Political Science and International Relations

How did you find out about the Y?  
Through my elementary school afterschool program.

What are some of the Y programs you've participated in?  
Teens Take the City, Saturday Programs ( Girls basketball, Dance, SHSAT and SAT Prep, Karate), Leader's Club

What is your favorite memory of the Y?  
Making so many long-lasting friendships.

How has the Y helped you to get where you are today?  
The Y has supported not only me academically and mentally, but played a huge role in helping my family spend quality time together, especially providing program and activities tailored to single parent households.

The Y has been a backbone for my family and has always continued to assist in any way no matter how old I have gotten.

It has also influenced my career path to public service,  take advantage of multiple career-building opportunities, as well as help fund my college career with the Von Der Hayden scholarship!

Do you think anything would be different if you hadn't been involved with the Y?  
Most definitely! Without the Y, I wouldn't have been able to attend college. I'd be pressured to choose between taking massive student loans to cover the cost and ultimately decide not to pursue higher education because of this obstacle.

I think I would have also suffered with extreme mental health issues because I felt alone and isolated, which I relied on attending the Y's programs and activities to help me through my tough times!

What would you tell a new teen coming to the Y for the first time?  
Take full advantage of the programs and network!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? No wrong answers!  
In 5 years, I hope to have published my first memoir and completed grad school at Princeton in International Affairs.

I would have traveled after grad school and been able to find my place in the nonprofit/public service field. I would have completed my foreign service/diplomat entrance exam and be in my second year in representing the U.S. abroad. I am living abroad and experiencing a new culture while coming home to New York every couple of months!

What do you think are the biggest challenges NYC teens face today?  
Mental Health! I think there are so many factors that can affect one's mental health that it can be challenging to seek help and find resources that can be helpful to teens. 

How do you think these challenges should be addressed at the individual level, community level, and/or city government level?   
Individual : Taking self-care days and utilizing the space to address how your feeling daily. Do not ignore your moody days or the days you don't feel like giving your best.

Community : Holy houses of worship, community building centers, or general community spaces should offer resources or activities to help with mental health. Advertise for the residents of those communities that they have a safe space they can rely on.

City Government : Making it mandatory for schools to offer days which are dedicated to addressing mental health concerns, info sessions, de-stressing activities, "lazy days" after stressful periods (eg, exam season).

Is there one thing the Y can do to help teens feel more supported with these challenges?  
Advertising mental health resources! Many Y branches offer these resources, but lack the advertising. Definitely focus on targeting specific times in the year when it can be most stressful for students ( regents exams, college entry/decision month, end of the year).

What is one thing you wish older generations understood about your generation?
Mental health isn't a joke. I think the older generation brushes off the idea of mental health because they don't validate this as a "real" issue. Mental health is definitely a priority and I think ignoring the issue or signs that someone is struggling shouldn't be treated as less than a more "important" issue. The idea that you shouldn't be sad because you have the important, necessary things in life like food and a home isn't a solution; that can't instantly fix your sadness. 

You are the future leaders of the world! What do you think will be the biggest impact from your generation?
Social media. While it can used to spread positive energy and can be resourceful, I think it also can have a negative influence by spreading body dysmorphia, constant comparisons between people our own age, and become a platform to show off materialistic things.

I think by utilizing the platform differently, it can create a sense of community that is supportive and connecting individuals on a deeper, meaningful level. The biggest impact is creating a safe space for others, spreading the information we know about the world, and tackling issues together, addressing the inequalities others are facing.