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Southwest and the East Oakland Youth Development Center

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At the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), we serve a population that doesn’t have access beyond their own community within the City of Oakland and rarely gets an opportunity to dream of the possibilities that exist beyond.  Since 2008, Southwest has allowed us to take our young people on a five-day journey to New York, where students see a diverse range of career and college options, allowing them to dream for their future and see college as a way to turn that dream a reality. Our spring tour included stops at American Express Headquarters, New York University, Essence Magazine, Good Morning America, the United States Mission to the United Nations, Columbia University, the Malcom X and Betty Shabazz Education Center, and the Art Institute of New York, just to name a few. Read more about participants’ educational, career and cultural experiences through their own words, with contributions from Taniya Bazille, Miles Lawrence, Astiee Carver, Thajay Razo, Brandon Aninipot, Khristan Antoine, and Elijah Russell. Some of us had never been on a plane before! New York City looked so beautiful from the air, and I could not wait to land! I realized that seeing landmarks on pictures and seeing them in person are two very different things! 
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Wheels up! A beautiful view of New York City.
At the NYU bookstore, we met up with Renee Williams, another EOYDC alumna, currently in a master’s program in social work. There, we heard the ultimate story of EOYDC’s college mentoring model, Sisterhood Across America. Renee welcomed Dominique, another EOYDC participant, to live with her while researching NYU programs and professors. Renee told us that’s what is special about EOYDC. The organization pours so much into you that when you are asked to benefit another participant, you cannot say no. There is an expectation of ‘giving back’ and we do so gladly. At Essence Magazine, they stressed that with hard work and dedication, we will gain the respect and high regard of colleagues and employers.
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Miles Lawrence gets a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Good Morning America's production.
As part of Good Morning America’s VIP audience, we saw behind the scenes of the show and learned a bit about television production. Anchor Amy Robach taught us that we do not have to be limited by one path and can explore many careers.  We met with Kim McClure, a Foreign Service Officer, at the United States Mission to the United Nations, who encouraged us  to pursue internships to expand our life experiences and career options. 
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Brandon Aninipot and Miles Lawrence visit the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center.
We had lunch with Jennifer Ramey, the President of the Art Institute; Nadraqua Dawes, the Dean of Student Affairs; and an internship advisor. They shared knowledge about how to seek internships and set goals in high school that will prepare you for college.
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Taniya Bazille view student artwork at the Art Institute of New York City.
The Donna Karan International offices advised us to network and know that when things do not go as planned, keep trying and work hard. On the last day in New York, we visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum which was incredibly moving. 
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Miles Lawrence (foreground) has a moment of reflection at the National September 11 Memorial.
Afterward, we met with Tatia Williams, the Vice President of Business affairs for the NBA.  Tatia said, “Be prepared to sell yourself. You never know when you'll be put on the spot.” This was a lesson about the art of having a two-minute elevator speech to build personal brands. Our young people can be found on more than 50 campuses across the country, and we see a growing population earning graduate degrees. Many past EOYDC participants have shared that their continued education is because of the exposure they receive during the college tour on this trip.  Thank you to Southwest Airlines, the companies that let us visit and inspire the students, and our alumni who assist us and set an example. We look forward to what this new set of leaders will achieve thanks to the start that you have given them.