Student Spotlight: Khalin Vasquez, Urban Word NYC
Read on for Khalin’s experience this summer in her own words:
I came to Urban Word this summer as an Alum of their programming, but hungry for more. As a youth literacy organization, Urban Word NYC had already transformed my life. I represented New York City youth poetry internationally through their slam competition, wrote and performed my own solo play, and touched legendary stages such as the Apollo and Lincoln Center. For a queer, low income person of color, Urban Word NYC gave me a safe space to develop as both a person and an artist. Therefore, I wanted my professional growth to be synonymous with giving back to this community. I was thrilled to win the Summer Internship grant from Hunter College’s Office of the Arts, in order to work at such an amazing nonprofit org.
What quickly solidified my dedication to the work Urban Word does was their annual fundraising benefit. It is one thing to be a recipient of the life changing programming the organization provides, and a whole other blessing entirely to learn how it is all made possible. The event included board members, distinguished alumni, and current youth alike. I was able to reconnect with some of my best friends, friends I met through Urban Word NYC. I was also able to see people who loved poetry enough to make successful careers out of it, like Mahogany L. Browne and Carvens Lissaint (pictured above). These beautiful individuals were my mentors and influences, I was privileged to work by their sides that evening. It was a night of poetry and love for all ages, a true testament of how Urban Word bridges the gap between necessary community for youth and efficient organizational skills.
Day by day, I am learning the ins and outs of running a nonprofit. Even on slow days of answering emails and phone calls, my supervisors constantly remind me that I am a helpful and needed individual at the office. My biggest task so far has been managing and organizing our annual Summer Institute, a writing and performance workshop intensive for 40 youth across the city. We launch the program this July, and my goal is to facilitate a space that is as transformative and fulfilling as possible. Whether I am managing applications, planning field trips, or drafting paperwork, it is an honor to direct the very same programming that changed my life just a couple of years ago. Program development that makes safer, artistic spaces for people like me is shaping up to be something I want to do for the rest of my life. I hope to continue fostering the skills needed to turn nonprofit work into a career, in order to serve the next generation the way Urban Word has already served me.
[Image Above: Fundraising Benefit. Pictured from left to right: Devin (2017 Slam Team), Imani (2016 Slam Team), Mahogany L. Browne (Artistic Director), Me! (2016 Slam Team, Program Assistant Intern), Carvens Lissaint (Distinguished Alumnus and Actor: Hamilton Musical)]