New Nonprofit Helps Students Gain Access to Career Opportunities

In the City of Syracuse, a whopping 34% of residents live below the poverty line, compared to 15.5% nationally, according to the American Community Survey. This local crisis is inspiring people to take action – and get creative – to help our residents succeed and thrive. Enter Together Now, a new grassroots nonprofit organization aims to turn the tides on this trend by helping low-income youth succeed in work and school, both contributing factors to breaking the cycle of poverty.

Eight months ago, Together Now was only an idea to help low income youth gain access to career opportunities and build leadership skills. Already, the organization has wrapped up its first Emerging Leaders Summer Internship Program, and is heading towards a bright future.

Founder and Executive Director Nicholas Paro got the idea for Together Now from his own experience growing up in poverty and overcoming obstacles. “As I grew up and experienced life, I realized that there were things I could do that would help me achieve more success.”

Tapping into the potential of young adults early, the Emerging Leaders program sets teenage Syracuse City School District students up with internships. In addition to gaining work experience, students also attend weekly workshops. The program is currently focused on serving Syracuse City School students, who may have fewer internship opportunities available to them. The workshop curriculum focuses on personal and professional leadership, financial literacy, networking, and principles of entrepreneurship. The workshops also end with a capstone project.

Nicholas Paro leads a Together Now workshop.

The students get paid for their internship and for attending the weekly two-hour workshops. “I think that’s important,” said Paro.  “I believe strongly in incentives and rewards for hard work, and I think that these students are being rewarded for their internship and for putting in this extra effort.”

Samuel Roberts II serves as Vice President and Director of Outreach and Jonathan Clark serves as Vice President and Director of Development. The three started a GoFundMe campaign to get Together Now off the ground. They now work closely with CNY Works and other community organizations to find eligible students and match them to internships.

The Central New York Community Foundation was the first to award the organization a monetary grant. “The Community Foundation sees youth as an important asset to our community and investing in them is investing in our future,” said Frank Ridzi, Vice President of community investment at the foundation.

Students like Nadia Shishakiye hope to return next summer.  “I really enjoyed the classes taught about leadership and what you need to do to become good and humble leader,” said Shishakiye. “I really loved learning about networking. I didn’t realize that whenever I talked to someone or even told them my name it was an opportunity to network. I hope to continue challenging myself and talking to people.”

Paro is excited for what the organization’s future brings. He hopes to increase student enrollment from eight to 15 and work with groups to get bigger grants and donations. Paro will also begin developing a new curriculum for returning students next summer.

“I want to make sure that they’re learning the skills that I think are necessary for success because those skills have benefited me,” said Paro. “The skills and processes that I’m teaching the students are the same skills and processes that we used to start Together Now. The organization is an example of the success of our principles that we are teaching these young adults.”

To learn more about Together Now and to get involved, visit togethernowsyracuse.com.

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