Youthful pride and exuberance was in the air for the fifth annual Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Institute (MVYLI) Job Shadow Day reception at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown Friday evening. Proud family members and friends filled the hotel’s dining room to cheer on 10 regional high school students, and hear them and their mentors describe the work they had done together so far, and their plans for the future.
Students came from every class, freshman to senior. The mentors, who generously dedicated their time to introduce the youths to a potential career, represented many fields, including medicine, publishing, small business management, counseling, event planning, and much more.
An especially moving moment was the presentation of the first Pat Gregory Award to Beka El-Deiry, owner of Island Window Design. She was honored as a small business owner and for service to the community. She serves on the MVYLI Advisory Council, and works on the American Heroes Saltwater Challenge.
Mr. Gregory, a well-known and widely liked and respected businessman and community activist who was West Tisbury’s town moderator, died last May, robbed and shot while hiking with a friend, who was also shot but survived, in California. He had participated as a mentor for the MVYLI Job Shadow Day. Ms. El-Deiry had been Mr. Gregory’s student at the West Tisbury School, and he would often check in with her after she began her own business.
Ms. El-Deiry fondly recalled days in Mr. Gregory’s classroom, and how he inspired students with his passion for computers, which were new at the time.
“He is a model for all things we all strive to be,” said Ms. El-Deiry. “I’m very honored. He will be in my heart forever.”
Dorothy Gregory and their daughter, Shannon Gregory Carbon, watched from their table as the award was presented.
“My father believed in giving one’s time and the power of a guiding hand,” said Ms. Carbon later. “He would have loved seeing Beka honored for her work.”
Patti Leighton of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank served as emcee, welcoming the audience, thanking the hotel, and speaking briefly about the Job Shadow program.
“It gives the student a leg up, not only educationally but as a person,” Ms. Leighton said.
She added that the program provides a valuable growth opportunity for the students, and for the entire community, which will benefit from their contributions as they mature and participate as adult citizens. Ms. Leighton called each pair to the podium for a photo, and presented students with certificates of achievement.
Students with aspirations
First up was Ben Nadelstein, briefly abandoning his video camera to receive his certificate. Ben had been busy videotaping the event and interviews with each student-mentor duo in the Harbor View’s lobby.
Ben, a sophomore, said he hopes to learn all about video work during his mentorship with Kevin McGrath, high school librarian.
“I had heard that Ben was the next Jon Stewart,” quipped Mr. McGrath, saying that he was looking forward to working with the enthusiastic young videographer.
“Elijah is a model young man!” said businessman Norman Hall of his mentee, Elijah LaRue.
Elijah had explained his goals briefly, saying that he had already gained valuable insights about business management from Mr. Hall, and was excited to learn more.
But Mr. Hall said the high school junior had shared other aspirations when they met that impressed him deeply. Elijah told him he was once a member of Young Brothers to Men at the regional high school, and that he and his friends want to revive the group. He also wants to mentor young people when he gets older.
“Here’s a young man who wants to help other people,” said Mr. Hall, “and I want to help him.”
Senior Kristine Hopkins visited Leslie Hurd Tully’s publishing office when staff was immersed in the final magazine-production process.
“Kristine really observed and asked good questions,” said Ms. Tully.
“She has such love and care for each of her patients,” said Taynara Goncalves, a junior, who spent a day shadowing family pediatrician Julia Stunkel, M.D., at her Martha’s Vineyard Hospital office.
When junior Lucie Dougherty-Soares shadowed Jennifer Neary, program director at Connect to End Violence, she was struck by the challenges staff face in working with clients in difficult situations.
As her mentor, Ms. Neary offered practical advice: “Regardless of what is going on in everyday life and work, it’s all about self-care. Take care of yourself.”
Junior Maisie Jarrell was bustling around during the reception, trying out skills learned while mentoring in event planning with Megan Honey, Harbor View special events manager.
“I really love weddings,” she confided. “I think it’s magical how they come together. I felt event planning would be a great career.”
But Maisie said despite her positive experience, she wants to explore many other careers before choosing.
Other participants included student Kelsey Moreis with psychology professional Grace Burton-Sundman; Noah Kleinhenz, who pursued his interest in environmental engineering by studying with marine biologist Emma Green Beach of the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group; Emily Hazell explored small business ownership with Beka El-Deiry. Freshman Lila Norris joined Maisie Jarrell in learning the basics of event planning.
“The more experience you get when you’re younger, the more you know what you want to do when you’re older,” said Ms. El-Deiry about the value to students of working with a mentor.
“When we invest in financial world, we see good dividends,” said Ms. Leighton as the event wound down. “But when we also invest in our youth, it comes back twofold.
“This can let them try a career path without costing their parents money. By the time they get to college, they have a better idea of what they want to do.”
MVYLI is a project of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, a nonprofit educational organization founded on the Vineyard in 1997 by Marianne Larned. It is dedicated to developing tools, programs, and community initiatives that inspire young people to address the critical issues they face — personally, locally, and globally.
According to Ms. Larned, Job Shadow Day is one aspect of a year-round program for MVYLI participants. Students are nominated by individuals or organizations in the community, and gather for a weeklong Youth Leadership Summit in June. Activities during the school year include weekly meetings, community service projects, and college visits, and students may receive help with college and scholarship applications. Vineyard youth ages 14 to 22 are welcome to apply, and all activities are free.
For more information, go to mvyli.org. For details on how to nominate a young person contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.