Perhaps what I like most about the United States is how people here open doors for other people. They make introductions, give others access to their networks, and make connections. This weekend I had a chance to experience this firsthand on a broad scale when I attended a Three Dot Dash Org event.
It started when I responded to a mail with the subject line: Be Epic. In direct, conversational language it invited me to become a mentor to a Global Teen Leader: “Hang out with 30 of the world’s top game changing youth and 29 other incredible Mentors. Be a part of an international super community of endless opportunities and connections. Boom. Plus, it will be one of the best days of your life. No joke.” I said yes without even reading to the end of the mail.
The mail was from Jess Teutonico, who describes herself as a “Community Activator, Global Consultant, Purposeful Adventurer.” We met last year when my employer, SAP, signed up to sponsor the 2015 TEDxTeen in New York City. I’ve been wanting to do something outside of my work and family life and this was the opportunity I had been looking for.
I showed up yesterday to Studio 450 on West 31st Street, took a freight elevator to the 12th floor, and entered a glossy white loft with a brilliant view of the Hudson Yards. Among the group of assembled mentors were the President of BBC America, Head of Sustainability at Pepsi, former Chief of Staff for Oprah Winfrey, a Ford model, and a Google executive. After mingling over breakfast, we shared short introductions of ourselves (a very humbling experience) and were then matched with our teen mentees, who were ridiculously excited to be matched with a mentor. Because even if these teens are already CEOs and founders of their own organizations, their mentors can open doors for them.
These amazing young social activists had spent the week in New York City learning the kinds of invaluable communications skills that Americans have in spades. They learned to tell their stories, they learned to pitch their ideas, they visited a PR agency, they were trained in blogging by a media expert barely older than themselves. By the time we met them, they could deliver their elevator speeches flawlessly.
I was matched with Yada. A 17-year-old from Thailand, Yada is now studying computer science, economics and statistics at Mount Holyoke College, “renowned for ecucating women leaders” as its website claims. They will not be disappointed with Yada. At the age of 12, she developed a painful and disfiguring skin condition. Her mother, a pediatric dermatologist, was unable to help. Her schoolmates teased her and called her names. Yada retreated inside herself and found that writing and dancing helped to heal her. She healed herself through self-expression. Not content with getting well, she decided to help hospitalized youth in Thailand by teaching dance and offering cultural programs. Now she wants to expand her program to Cambodia and Burma. And my job is to help her promote the program. Let the adventures begin!