Giving Back

November 20, 2011

Over the past few weeks, I have been able to participate in some wonderful opportunities to ‘give back’ here in New Haven. My Yale SOM classmates, consistently impressing me with their professional accomplishments, are also great leaders—innovators really—in extracurricular and community outreach programs. Their efforts remind me of why I’m here: a place that truly ‘lives its values’ in educating leaders for business and society. Anthony Webb (SOM ’13), for example, created an organization in 2006 called Boys Speak Out (www.boysspeakout.org), which is dedicated to youth development work (both social and professional). One of the group’s programs is the “Business Student for a Day,” where the goal is to allow disadvantaged youth to be exposed to various academic and professional institutions so that they can learn about different avenues available for their future. On November 4, Anthony set up one of these days for the Metropolitan Business Academy students to visit Yale SOM. The students had a variety of different activities throughout their visit, but the hour that I participated in was a discussion group. We split the students into smaller, more intimate groups, and led informal chats on what we were like in high school, what was important to us, why we are in business school and how we got here, and the like. Leading one of these sessions with my classmate, Fernando Herrero-Sin (SOM ’13), I learned from someone with a completely different background than mine. Just like the students we were educating on the importance of hard work, dedication, and surrounding yourself with positive people, I got a sense of how similar yet very different the challenges are for someone from another country and family to make it here. The point was to show these kids that the people at a place like Yale SOM and with our experiences aren’t as different as they might think. Last weekend, Jason Klein (SOM ’12) organized his “Straight But Not Narrow” workshop for New Haven’s annual Gender Equality Conference (for local high school students). Jason created this workshop during his time pre-Yale at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and he ran it for the firm in New York, London, and Philadelphia. The interactive experience is meant to show the audience why taking diversity not so seriously can make a serious impact. Political correctness is checked at the door, and the event is structured as a safe, open space to talk about the explicit and implicit terms and conversations that occur in everyday life—how to cultivate responses, redirect verbal negativity, and in empower advocates to educate others and stand up for their beliefs. A group of my classmates and I acted in sketches to really bring these scenarios to life for the students. I was surprised by how participatory and open the kids were on really difficult issues—talking more with each other than with us. It was really an amazing experience, and a lot of fun as well! I would end by saying that these two organizations and events are only the tip of the iceberg on the great contributions Yale SOM students have and are making to society. One of my study group members (and wonderful friend!), Joseph Lombardo (SOM’12), founded non-profit Vitamin USA (www.vitaminUSA.org) in 2008. This charity serves and relieves the hungry by supplying healthy food to the malnourished in the U.S. If not impressive enough on its own, Joseph also just signed full-time to go back to the Financial Institutions Group in J.P. Morgan’s Investment Banking Division. He is just another example of all of us doing what we do best: winning at life (crushing it, you might say).

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About the author

Jessica Aldridge

Joint Degree: Forestry & Environmental Studies; Post-MBA Position: Senior Associate, New York Green Bank