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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