Innovative Leadership Program Finds Solutions to City’s Problems
Recently, a group of bright ambitious young professionals, city officials, and representatives of the mayor’s office were joined by prominent community leaders including Commissioner Jeanne B. Mullgrav, of the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development and Commissioner Guillermo Liners of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, to celebrate the launch of the NYC Diversity Leadership Training Program.
The program is a joint partnership of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, American-Israel Friendship League, the Cornell University Extension School (represented by Director Donald J. Tobias), The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s New York City Tolerance Center, and the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. The goal of the project was to bring together 40 participants between the ages of 25 and 35 to participate in educational workshops that address a variety of challenges facing the city. The predecessor of this program was a series of projects, in 2005, which brought together Hispanics and Israelis, to deconstruct stereotypes and build bridges between the two communities.
The program’s distinctiveness, Tobias explained, is its strategy to address urban issues through a “diverse lens. Once you embrace the idea of diversity…there’s a natural rhythm that comes when you integrate the elements of service, of scholarship, of the finest minds” and venture out of traditional classrooms into communities.
Commissioners Mullgrav and Liners offered words of inspiration and motivation to the candidates, selected by a very competitive process and representing a broad spectrum of ethnic backgrounds and professions. From careers in international relations, entrepreneurs, to founders of non-for profit agencies dedicated to improving the lives of women and youth at risk, to employees of the United Nations, each brings crucial leaderships skills to the table. The participants include natives of Zimbabwe, Morocco, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Korea, and Israel.
Commissioner Liners encouraged the participants to “think globally and act locally” as they learn about each other and develop sustainable projects to improve the city they share.
Sandy Weill, one of the program’s founders, describes the program as providing a platform for fostering mutual cooperation tolerance and understanding.
Over the course of six months the participants will take part in workshops designed to educate them and promote dialogue. The topics of the sessions cover a wide range of issues and skills that include immigration, public education diversity, project development, personal communication, economic development and public relations diversity, project development, personal communication, economic development and public relations. The sessions will be lead by noted political, corporate and academic leaders who will take part in the workshops in historically and political significant locations throughout the city. The roster of illustrious speakers includes Chancellor Joel Klein, Peter Lobo of the NYC Department of City Planning, Bridget Reagan the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s New York Tolerance Center, and Albert Ruiz of the Daily News. If the range of résumés of the applicants are a reflection of success, the project is already well on its way to meeting these goals.
Sanae Elhitmi, one of the candidates, a native of Morocco, works as a research assistant to the Assistant Secretary to the UN Security Council on Political Affairs. After graduating from Baruch College with a degree in Finance, Sanae found herself dissatisfied with the idea of taking the safe path to success with a degree in business. Instead, she chose to pursue her passion for international and political affairs in a Masters Program in International Relations which then led her to the United Nations in a career documenting correspondence and debriefing notes for Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Balkans. Sanae’s own experience coming to the United States from Morocco at the age of 18 gave her an appreciation for the richness and diversity of New York City and shaped her belief that every human is a “world citizen.” Her hope is to use diversity as a point of departure “to leverage the similarities between communities rather than the differences.” One of her ambitions is to build a bridge between Muslim and Jewish communities, Arabs and Israelis. “My belief and hope is that through this program, we can capitalize on these similarities using media including the arts, comedy, and music.”
Despite her idealism she is realistic about the challenges of promoting tolerance. Her philosophy, she says, can be echoed by the words of Shirim Ebadi of Iran: “What is important is that one utilizes one’s intellect and to never be one hundred percent sure about one’s convictions; always leave room for doubt.”
For more information or to apply to this program contact Kym Pitlor at firstname.lastname@example.org.#