Tag Archives: Urban Ambassadors

Tongues vs. Thumbs: Urban Ambassadors ‘vote’ results, Part 2

26 Jul

When you’re lucky enough to chat with Urban Ambassadors in the park, the future is filled with bright possibilities.

Our discussion was wily and and as discussed last time, begged for tangents darting to school,  A Better Chance Program’ trips, and of course, girls.

How odd we must have looked to passersby:  a middle aged white woman surrounded by nine non-white teenage boys?  We’re attracting lots of looks, a few guys point out, so we rearrange ourselves, putting my coaching sign back on the table.  The sign had been on the ground so I could see everyone’s eyes and faces.

The Ambassadors listening intently!

People want to talk and be listened to, as the posse reminded me.  Conversations like these could go the distance, bridging people and building understanding.

The importance of conversations and communication takes front and center stage.  In this day and age I have to ask about their communication preference:  tongues vs. thumbs?

Tongues rolled in response and a vote revealed a preference of 7 tongues to 2eithers’.   Wow – I’m surprised though I shouldn’t be since these guys are talking -to me- on a hot afternoon.  I see their ‘tongue’ vote as a thumbs up for opposable thumbs and humankind’s love of face-to-face interactions.

‘After texting, you may change your mind and then, there’s nothing you can do’, one Ambassador shared with universal agreement.

Next consideration was about the ubiquitous ‘LOL’ at the end of the message.  ‘It doesn’t mean anything anymore.  You just add it all the time’ was one summary of  this text’ accessory.   Adding a little ‘frownie’ face is more meaningful.

Now this doesn’t mean cell phones don’t serve a greater purpose, especially on the subway as one told:  ‘I have a friend who pulls out his phone as soon as he sits down even though there’s no service.’  

It’s taken me more than a few years to realize people play games underground, explaining their ‘palmed’ focus.  Is he playing games I wondered?

‘NO!  He just doesn’t want to talk to anyone!’ 

While I usually view the subway as the perfect melting pot, for many it is their

Bryant Park is also quite the melting pot of people and entertainment including piano playing! If you’ve never spent an hour roaming this small square – do it! It’s amazing what you’ll find!

decompression chamber after a tough day.  So I do get it.

If texting is a ‘no’ what about Facebook, cyberspace’s 24/7 ‘happy hour’ meet and greet?  Will they cross the great divide for a FB ‘like’?

One scary and cautionary tale:  Two girls went missing after going to a Facebook ‘hook-up’.  As the Ambassador wisely stated:  ‘Everything public is dangerous.’

Six of the nine have Facebook pages, so yes, it fares a bit better.  But having a page and ‘liking ‘it’ are two different things.  Especially when it comes to connecting with the opposite sex.

Offering a friend request on-line is often met with rejection – even after the girl had expressed interest in connecting.   This was really frustrating to these guys.  ‘They (girls) say they want to talk.  But they don’t.’

This multi-sided coin reveals great Facebook relationships.  Unfortunately these relationships aren’t great in ‘real life’.

One thing is apprarent with the Ambassadors.  These nine, really nice, open, intelligent young men live in ‘real life’.  Armed with humor, great conversation skills and drive, I think, I hope, they’ll continue to nurture skills for meaningful relationships and ‘real’ communication.

Yup!  Human connection and communication are alive and well in NYC.  

Let’s all make a phone call today and hear someone LOL – for ‘real’!  

I’ll be back in Bryant Park next Wednesday the 1st of August!  Stay cool!

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Urban Ambassadors: The Coach is IN: A Talk in the Park

24 Jul

A posse of nine young men parading through Bryant Park attracts attention.  But then again, that is exactly what they want!

I look up as they noisily passed, stop, and glance back at my sign – and me.  Holding the sign and offering a coaching session intensify their huddle.   Within

The coach is IN and ready!

minutes the pack breaks as one strides towards me, the posse trailing behind.

J. plunks a quarter down in payment for five sessions.   Here’s the scene so far:  9 guys standing, smiling, staring in wait at my table.  This feels like fun!

They scatter to find chairs, forming a semi-circle around me.  I suddenly feel like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society.   No worries:  no table jumping for me.  My coordination is not on par with my coaching skills. 

As introduction, J. shares his stunt  pulled walking across the Park’s lawn.  His ‘jump’ meant to amuse and entertain the posse (and everyone watching) doesn’t match his deadpan expression.  It’s quickly obvious he’s the group’s entertainer.  I can’t help but assess his communication style.

The conversation becomes a free-for-all as at least seven voices compete to be heard, each telling variations of who they are and where they’ve been.  Order is quickly restored and they resolve their only conflict by taking turns and raising hands to speak.  In reality their issue is a search for conversation and acknowledgement.  Sitting back, I settle in to listen.

The Urban Ambassador (A Better Chance) crew: nine of the nicest guys you’d want to spend the afternoon talking to.

So, who are these guys? 

Introductions are exchanged with strong handshakes and good eye contact.  Unsurprisingly this is part of their ‘training’.  I define a handshake as a transfer of energy – a desire to share energy with another, I’m rewarded with a firmer grip.

Proudly, they tell me they are Urban Ambassadors and rising Juniors.  They are high achieving young men of color in low achieving schools, participating in ‘A Better Chance’, a program which mentors, and supports them to go to college and fulfill their potential.

Their potential and drive shines through.  T. shares his interest in business, in success and tells me he always strives to do better.  An imperfect grade, raises questions while pushing for that next level.  T. joins J. in leading the conversation, allowing his communication style to become clear.

Normally they are in suits and show the pics to prove it.  Today’s casual attire reflects the day’s activity:  bowling at Times Square Bowlmor Lanes.  www.bowlmor.com/timessquare  

Next week, they’re off to Washington, D.C.  for the second time.  A first visit focused on colleges including Howard University.  Business seems a popular career interest, except for M., an artist observing from the back.

SAT preparation occupies many of their days.  Test taking is a skill and we discuss strategies.  A few mention the need for more time to think and fully process questions while the others comment on how more than one answer makes sense.

One question comes up based on an experience this morning.   No-one stopped to help them when they asked for directions.  Why not?   These guys are SO intent

N. paying a bonus in appreciation!

and SO interested in understanding human behavior.  What could I say other than to keep trying and keep smiling.  Not that these guys are the type to give up.

These Urban Ambassadors live up to their ‘title’ in exuding personality and ‘niceness’.   It’s striking how intently they listen to each other and to me.  Listening is one of those skills I usually think of as being on the endangered list.

In this day and age of tongues vs. thumbs communication, I couldn’t help but ask about their preference for connecting.

And that’s a whole other story, so I”ll share it next it time.