Photo credit to Canva

This summer, Urban Upbound takes part in the largest youth employment program in the nation, the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). Organized by NYC’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), this program helps level the playing field for many young New Yorkers who otherwise can’t afford an internship. The youth who participate in this program are connected with opportunities to explore different career paths while gaining meaningful paid work experience. Urban Upbound offered several internship opportunities and currently has three interns working in different departments.

With no plans this summer and unemployed, Shakera Rahman applied to the program back…


A Farewell to Urban Upbound Resource Navigator Team

Last month, Urban Upbound bid farewell to our team of Resource Navigators. For the past 13 months, the Urban Upbound Resource Navigator team helped support New Yorkers who needed to quarantine because of exposure to Coronavirus. Since the City’s Take Care Initiative started in June 2020, the Navigator team made over 50,000 calls in total to check in on quarantined New Yorkers. This week, Resource Navigator Director Paul Sawyer shared his team experiences from the field that are most memorable to him!

Through these check-in calls, Navigators identified the different situations of…


by Malik Harris, Business Support Coordinator

Before the pandemic, women- and minority-owned small businesses had already experienced significant barriers to accessing opportunities for individual and community economic development. Not only has this past year highlighted the harrowing inequalities some Queens’ residents continue to face, but many local entrepreneurs are now tasked with having to manage yet another set of business challenges brought on by the end of coronavirus-era restrictions. …


The COVID-19 pandemic forced Urban Upbound to move most of our social services online — which made it an unusual year for our College Access participants. Even though the participants were able to finish the SAT preparation course at the end of 2019 still sitting across from their peers, they unfortunately could not do any in-person college tours or visit any in-person college fairs during 2020. And while their college preparation experience was a digital-only one, last week they were able to celebrate their success together and in person!

Kicking off the summer and following the lifting of most COVID-19…


Gabriel Palomino didn’t have big plans for life after high school. Then one summer, while working a low-wage job at a well known fast food chain, he decided to go to college. Gabriel moved back to New York to live with his grandmother in Queens. He saw more opportunities here than in Florida, where he had been living most recently.

In his sophomore year of high school, Gabriel began looking into several SAT Prep services. He went through several services recommended to him by his school counselor. Gabriel ultimately chose Urban Upbound because it was free and he saw that…


Nelson Castillo moved to New York City a few years back to find a better-paying job so he could support his wife and two children, who stayed behind. He found work at an airport terminal and was able to begin sending money to his family. Even though his income was enough for their daily needs, Nelson had a large amount of debt that he wanted to pay off. He also wanted to increase his credit score, thinking of a mortgage loan in the near future. A friend’s recommendation led Nelson to Urban Upbound in early March 2020.

Soon after, the…


Luz Martinez and her friend Solais Benitez started building their professional cleaning business with the assistance of Urban Upbound’s worker cooperative team in December 2019. As we all know now, a few months into their incubation period, the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York. Working on her own small business gave Luz the flexibility to spend more time with her teenage daughter. Unfortunately, her daughter began showing symptoms of depression. The Queens-based mother had to be creative in finding activities that could help her daughter regain her interest in school and improve her mental health.

The restrictions imposed on travel and…


Tanay and her daughter at the Urban Upbound East Harlem site. Copyright: Urban Upbound.

Entering motherhood is one of the most beautiful moments in life. But how does it feel to have your baby during one of the most stressful times in recent history? NYCHA resident Tanay Felton-Carr gave birth to her daughter in April 2020, beginning her motherhood journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tanay loves spending time with her daughter, but she knows that she needs job security in order to provide for her family. Since she was introduced to Urban Upbound in 2017, she has secured various jobs, most recently working at a supermarket.

Looking for support during COVID

Tanay had to wake up before 3 AM…


by Vismary Vargas (Site Manager of Urban Upbound Far Rockaway office) and Stephanie Kalele (Donor Relations Manager)

When Wendy Mejia Cohen immigrated to the United States in 2013 with her two young sons, she never expected that she would need to collect food from the community food pantry program in her neighborhood. An architect by trade, Wendy knew that she had to make adjustments in terms of work. However, she was not prepared for a global pandemic that pushed thousands of people into unemployment.

Wendy Mejia Cohen and her two kids.

Looking for support during COVID

Before the pandemic, Wendy had to work two jobs to be able to fulfill her family’s…


Tanya Vasquez. Copyright: Urban Upbound.

Tanya Vasquez had just started putting her life together when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. A single mother of two, Tanya was initially introduced to Urban Upbound in September 2019, right before her 25th birthday. With the help and encouragement from our counselors, Tanya earned her high school equivalency diploma (HSE), moved out of the shelter system, and enrolled in a training program to become a certified medical coder and biller. Tanya’s journey along with her two children has been full of ups and downs, especially when New York City schools had to close in March 2020. …

Urban Upbound NYC

A collection of stories around NYC’s public housing communities curated by Urban Upbound, a non-profit organization with a mission to break cycles of poverty.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store