Friday, October 9, 2009

INVISIBLE: THE DIARIES OF NEW YORK’S HOMELESS YOUTH airs on Saturday, October 10th at 10:30pm exclusively on CW/PIX.


From homeless youths to PIX producers… they spent years living on the streets, now seven of New York City’s formerly homeless teens are trading their troubled pasts for public service with INVISIBLE: THE DIARIES OF NEW YORK’S HOMELESS YOUTH a 30-minute documentary to air on Saturday, October 10th at 10:30pm.

This TV special is the result of a partnership between CW/PIX and the Reciprocity Foundation. The Reciprocity Foundation, a not-for-profit organization known for innovative approaches in assisting homeless youth, helps students to turn their passions and talents into careers, which in turn enables them to break the cycle of poverty. At the Reciprocity Foundation, youth create films, music videos, fashion designs and other creative assignments with industry leaders who coach, train and mentor. Executive Director Taz Tagore said, “The CW/PIX partnership is the perfect example of how New York City leaders can help homeless youth to achieve their career goals and have a positive impact on the world.”

This special project included student collaboration with industry leader Chris Glorioso, an Emmy award winning PIX News Reporter. Reciprocity Foundation students undertook this project in order to highlight an often-ignored and somewhat taboo issue; the film documents personal experiences of youth homelessness as only formerly homeless teens could tell it. The show was co-written, co-produced, and partially shot by 7 of Reciprocity's formerly homeless teens themselves (Lysette Horne, Selassie Samuel, Eleet Lucheonnie, Aaron McBride, Dorian Paat, Bobby Beavers and Jennifer Carter).

Told mostly from a first person perspective, the program explores and demystifies some causes of youth homelessness: being orphaned, fleeing chronic physical and sexual abuse, or simply trying to escape overwhelming economic dilemmas. Each year, up to 2.8 million youth experience homelessness. INVISIBLE: THE DIARIES OF NEW YORK’S HOMELESS YOUTH examines the issues that perpetuate youth homelessness and details the Reciprocity Foundation’s unique formula for lifting kids out of crisis and into successful careers.

Reciprocity Foundation’s Managing Director Adam Bucko said, “Homeless youth can break the cycle of poverty, but only if you enable them to have a career goal that excites them and leverages their talents. In a very real way, working on this documentary has done just that for our students. They were homeless just months ago, but now they can honestly say they’ve produced a television show in the nation’s top media market.”

According to Lyssette Horne, one of the film’s co-producers who previously spent 2 years homeless, "When I teamed up with Chris, PIX and the Reciprocity Foundation, I started to realize my dream career was in media activism through documentary making. After helping write and produce “Invisible,” I know that I can make a difference with the stories and experiences I portray.”

INVISIBLE: THE DIARIES OF NEW YORK’S HOMELESS YOUTH airs on Saturday, October 10th at 10:30pm exclusively on CW/PIX.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

News From The Reciprocity Foundation!

Although it’s been a while since you’ve heard from us, we’ve been extremely active in helping homeless and at-risk youth transform their lives and fulfill their hopes, dreams, and aspirations! Their example conveys a powerful message to others in a similar situation: “If we can achieve, so can you!” We’ve also been placing greater emphasis on our students’ inner transformations, providing coaching from renowned corporate leaders along with transformative counseling sessions. In addition, the timeless wisdom and practicality of yoga and meditation, as tools to deal with life’s complexity, has become a more integral part of our program. As a result, we’re seeing more and more of our students develop a natural inner drive to become agents of positive change themselves!

Over the last few months, Reciprocity Foundation has been featured in KFC’s “Hometown Heroes” campaign featured on BET, which reached millions with our message: it is possible for homeless and at-risk youths to be transformed into creative leaders. We’ve also made the cover of Gay City News, and received the “2009 Award for Excellence in Educational Enhancement” from The New York Life Foundation. We had the honor of being selected, among the hundreds of organizations, to represent the Borough of Manhattan as an example of transformation in the lives of young people, preparing them for the workplace, success in higher education, and responsible citizenship.

We’ve always believed that success is not just about the individual; instead, it needs to be extended to the community. Our students are truly embracing this vision. Our former student, Isis King, an America’s Next Top Model contestant, recently appeared on Larry King Live and the Tyra Banks Show, to educate America about gender justice and re-define cultural concepts of beauty.

Dorian Jay Paat traveled to Africa as an HIV activist. Having lost his mother to AIDS, Dorian used his personal experience to reach out to others. While in Namibia, he appeared on two national TV programs, youth radio programs, and spoke at the U.N.

Additionally, Dorian met with local HIV+ youths, inspiring them to use their struggles to promote positive change.

Lyssette Horne recently had a successful photo exhibit at the trendy
Jiva Muktea Vegan Cafe. She photographed homeless youths of NYC, re-imagining them as Indian deities. This powerful exhibit, “Light in All of Us”, shared the vision that we all have unique and precious gifts that can inspire and transform.

The potential for our students to share their visions of hope is clearly starting to catch fire and the future possibilities are very exciting! Stay tuned!

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Formerly Homeless Artist Using Creativity to Empower the Community!

NYC’s popular Jiva Mukti Yoga Center, located in Union Square, is currently featuring the photographic work of Lyssette Horne. The exhibit, “Light in All of Us,” celebrates diversity and the potential to cultivate love, creativity, energy, and acceptance.

“The opportunity to show my work at Jiva Mukti is incredible. So many New Yorkers pass through the studio. My wish is that everyone who sees these photos will be able to take something from them. Hopefully the exhibit will make a meaningful impact and invite viewers to see the world a little differently,” says Horne.

Horne seeks to illuminate the universal experience through her photography. Many of her subjects are, like herself, formerly homeless youth who have gone on to embrace their talents, dreams, and aspirations and thus transform their circumstances. Horne re-imagines these people as Indian deities, inviting the viewer to recognize what she sees as the essential goodness and boundless potential of every human being. She challenges her viewers to extend compassion to all people with whom they interact in their daily lives, especially those so often overlooked by society.

About the Artist:

Lyssette Horne is a formerly homeless youth, artist, poet, photographer, social activist and vegan chef who uses her experiences and creativity to empower people and communities. Her photography and activism have been featured in Yoga Journal, Yoga+ Magazine, and Gay City News. Her story has been featured in “In Your Shoes,” a documentary film that was named an official selection for the 2009 New York Independent Film and Video Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. Horne is a founder of Border Line Arts Collective, an organization that uses new media to empower gay and lesbian artists. She also serves as a mentor to homeless youth at the Reciprocity Foundation, a program from which she graduated in 2007.
Written by Sarah Autumn Feeley

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Another World is Possible!

On the sixteenth floor of a lower Manhattan office building, in a rectangular room, on a tangerine wall, next to a gleaming white door, hangs a poster-sized piece of paper. Hand written in navy blue marker is the following quote: “Not only is another world possible, She is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. -Arundhati Roy”

While few days in New York City-not even this relatively calm and overcast March morning-can be described as quiet, in this room, the small headquarters of the Reciprocity Foundation, you can still hear the breath of change. It is on the lips and in the words of Adam Bucko.

Bucko, 33, is one of the co-founders of the Reciprocity Foundation. It is an organization aimed at providing homeless and high risk youth with skills to not only exit the social service system, but also find careers in what he calls the Creative Industries—fields like new media, social entrepreneurship, design, marketing, and green economy.

“Our goal was not to just help them to become successful,” Bucko says in an even tempo, words tinged with a Polish accent, “but to turn them into change makers so they can go back to the shelters, the neighborhoods, mentor other kids, and create opportunities for their whole community.”

The kids he speaks about is a diverse group of young adults, ranging in age from barely teens to early twenties. The majority of students are of color and are LGBTQ, a reflection of the homeless youth demographic in New York City. This year, Bucko says, the foundation has worked with over 300 kids.

According to recent data released by New York City, 36,000 people sleep in shelters each night-16,000 of which are children. Thousands more are sleep on the streets, in the subway, or other public places. These figures are the highest in the city’s history.

By these statistics, it would be hard for any organization to measure success by the amount of youth reached. Instead, the foundation measures success by what it can help the youth accomplish. Students of the Reciprocity Foundation have moved on to colleges like Parsons and Babson. They have earned internships and jobs at Fortune 500 companies. Their most recognizable, a transgender model named Isis, reached fame through the television show “America’s Next Top Model.”

“I would say that a lot of our students have had life changing experiences with an organization within our community,” Bucko says. “To me, that’s what success is all about.”

Click here for slideshow.

Text and Photos by Collin Orcutt

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

GREEN FASHION by homeless designers!

What if someday being decked from head to toe in the latest trends and carrying around a copy of Vogue could send a message to the world that you are green, sustainable, sweatshop free and committed to helping your community?

Fashion gets criticized for being superficial, but people like Lauren Hope Silverstein see the potential it has to be anything but.

Silverstein, who designs for a leading fashion house, recently met with Reciprocity students to discuss green fashion and design.

The general feeling in the room was that while we all want to give back and carefully use our precious natural resources, nobody wants to sacrifice on style, and nobody has to.

For young, homeless designers, this conversation was particularly important. Having experienced so much difficulty, these youth know that in order to feel good about their contributions, they want their work to tell their stories and help others.

The reassurance that designing the perfect pair of jeans has the possibility to send a positive message of awareness and change, and keep the planet healthy, further inspired these already motivated young adults.

Reciprocity has been offering training in green and socially responsible start-ups since 2004, long before the trend truly took off, but as Terry Swack of Sustainable Minds pointed out "the challenge is the lack of accessible, easy to use information that design teams can integrate into their processes to design greener products."

Reciprocity is helping to bridge that gap, and by asking practical questions, Reciprocity students are pushing industry professionals to articulate just how we can all work together to make this trend the standard.

Silverstein, for example, is offering students guidance on portfolios, and recently led a Reciprocity project that resulted in the creation of a chic, eye-catching, green, organic, sweatshop-free tote bag, sales of which benefit programming for homeless youth. Now that is one multi-tasking accessory!
Written by Sarah Autumn Feeley

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