The past year and a half has been a time of great change for everyone, and YOU Boston is no exception. When the pandemic pushed everyone home and onto their computers, YOU Boston adapted. While there were no longer in-person worksites for the youth, virtual career cohorts were created. Laptops and hotspots were provided for those who needed them. Supplies were ordered and packed for each youth, so they could follow along with new virtual instructors. Now, a year later, YOU Boston is proudly serving over 130 youth in a wide variety of cohorts for Summer 2021.

To get a better idea of how the program has changed over the past year, Summer Program Operations Intern Elizabeth Si sat down with youth Jonathan Edmorin to hear about how YOU Boston has changed to him. 

How long have you been working with YOU Boston? When was your first year?

My first year? I think it was the summer of my freshman year, so 2019. I started then, and I just kept with it from there.

Jonathan giving a speech at the Mayor’s Event in 2019.

Why did you decide to join and stay at YOU Boston?

I mean, my first year I just felt comfortable doing it. Yeah, I just liked it all. I liked what I was doing, and I didn’t think I was comfortable with other jobs yet either. So, you know, I just kept rolling with it. I was learning more stuff and getting more experience. 

How has this experience at YOU Boston helped you?

Oh, it’s actually helped me a lot. Because now I feel like I’m ready for a new job. Now I know the outcomes, you know, like what it takes it to have a real job.

What was the experience like before the pandemic? What did you do for your work?

When it was in person, we was outside. And it was good to be outside. My first year, we was doing benches, and that was actually pretty fun. Then, going on to, like, during the school year, we did different things. Like, we was painting. We was helping out in a kitchen. And sometimes we was back at the YOU office. But really it was fun to be outside, basically. 

What is the experience like for you now that it’s all virtual?

I mean, at first it was like, “Dang, this is light.” You know? I’m just sitting in front of a computer and just listening. And, I mean, it’s still kind of light. But it was weird at first though, I ain’t gonna lie. I didn’t really feel comfortable just turning my camera with a whole bunch of people on my screen. But I got used to it, you know? I’m pretty sure everybody know my face now (laughs). 

What are you doing right now? Through the virtual setting?

Right now, I have a bigger role, you know? I’m a senior peer (leader), and we got presentations; we got the newsletters. We trying to show the other cohorts, like, a greater deal of YOU. We show them the presentations, and we do good in the presentations, yeah. 

Right, you’re a senior peer leader. And that means you’ve been doing great things like the presentations and even sending newsletters and leading discussions for the other cohorts. So, what’s the thing you’re most proud of giving back to YOU Boston?

I think right now, I’m proud of stepping up and being dependable. Like, when they need someone to present, you know, I’m there. I’m comfortable with speaking out to people and having discussions with the other cohorts. 

How has it been to be a senior peer leader virtually?

It’s been great. It’s probably the best experience I’ve had virtually. I think I like helping people and stuff like collaborating with others, you know. And just like, discussing about serious things. 

Do you prefer being in person or this virtual experience?

I mean, I feel like virtually is better. Because in-person, I’m not gonna lie, I’m gonna be honest, I was late sometimes, you know? But virtually, like, oh. I just open my computer, log in, and boom I’m here (laughs). 

What have you learned from YOU Boston, whether it be in-person or virtual?

You know, there’s a lot of stuff I’ve learned. It’s kind of hard to think of everything, but yeah. I’m just prepared now, you know? I learned what it takes to have a real job. I’m thankful I started off with YOU though because if I started off with some other place, I don’t think I would’ve been too good. I wouldn’t know some outcomes and stuff, like consequences and things like that. 

Have you learned or experienced anything new because of the virtual program?

I mean, I’ve learned more from the discussions and presentations. I learned a lot from that, like about some things I don’t even know about. The first presentation was about Black Lives Matter, and I was speaking for that. We had a huge discussion; it was a huge discussion. Everyone had things to say. They asked questions and we answered it. And then our second presentation was the MeToo movement. It was the same thing, like, everyone had things to say and we had a huge discussion. I did the slides for that. Right now, we’re about to do a presentation on human trafficking, and I’m helping with the slides. 

What are your plans for the future?

Dang, I don’t know. I’m like that one guy who don’t know what I’m about to do. I’m still doing my research though. I gotta see what I fit. I try to search for the things that get me, like, a lot of money, so like real estate and entrepreneurship, things like that. Imma do my research on those and see how it can benefit me. 

Is there anything else you want to share about your experience with YOU Boston?

It’s great for young people starting off, you know? It’s great for a first job basically. You can do a lot. And you know, I’ve recruited a lot of people. I have more recruits too, I’m not gonna lie (laughs). YOU is a great company. 



Interview and article by Elizabeth Si