Meet Lyndon, a young professional and positive thinker

 

How does your typical day start?

I live in Queens so I go pretty far to come here [to Manhattan]. I usually drive to the bus then take the bus to the train. It’s kind of a journey for me, but I look up to it every day. It’s my first time working in the City, and it’s pretty awesome coming every day.

What do you do for work?

I am a recruiter for the Made In New York Animation Program, a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment, the Neighborhood Opportunity Network (NeON℠), and The Animation Project.* We teach youth 3D digital animated film skills. They learn how to create their own 3D digital animated film in 12 weeks.

I got that job through probation. I was on probation working as a Young Adult Success Corps* member. My probation officer, he made it mandatory for me to go there. I didn’t want to go at first, and I don’t know why, but I just ended up going.

While I was [at NeON] one random day, the director totally put me on the spot. I walked right into the room and she was like, “Lyndon, here’s a position as a recruiter for the Animation Project. I want you to apply. I think it will be great for you.”

At first, I didn’t really want to do it, but I just ended up going and applying for the position. I came in for the interview, and I rocked it and ended up getting hired for the position. Ever since then, I’ve been working for The Animation Project.

Do you see the people who you’ve recruited go through the program?

Definitely. I can tell you about this one young gentleman, an awesome dude. I met him through one of our clinicians. She told him about our program, and he ended up reaching out to me.

He was totally dedicated. He came to our Brooklyn group. He showed up almost every group, and we told him we have a group on Staten Island since he goes to school out there, and he was so committed that he ended up going to a group out there as well. Eventually he ended up becoming a paid intern working at TAP.

I’m really proud of him, to see the growth in him. The fact that he reached out to me, and he was brought to the program, and I can see that it helped his lifeit just makes me happy to see. You’re changing someone’s life.

 

“True Colors,” an animation by Fortune Society, created for The Made in NY Animation Project.

What drives you to want to help people?

In my experiences, I never had anybody help me go down the right path. I ended up doing something very bad and got myself on probation, and I didn’t really have any guidance. Now that I overcame that, I feel like it’s my duty to help others.

What or who was in your corner helping you along?

I had my probation officer. He was one of the number one advocates that helped me fulfill this journey. He helped me a lot just by speaking to me. He didn’t punish me—just spoke to me and scared me. Just the thought of going to jail made me not want to do anything bad.

There was this one program that I attended that also helped me 100%. It’s called the Arches Program*. I was recommended by my probation officer, and I had to attend every Tuesday and Thursday in Jamaica, Queens. It’s basically a mentorship program. You have mentors that are assigned to you to help you get through what you’re going through on probation and  just become better in life.

I had a mentor, and he was so tough on me. There was this one week I didn’t attend at all on Tuesday and Thursday, and he called my probation officer and was like, “Hey, man, where’s Lyndon? He didn’t show up for these two days. Do you know where he is?” My probation officer didn’t know I didn’t show up. He ended up calling me.

That pressure, being in those types of situations, made me want to stay away from that—and just stay positive.

Young man smiles widely in front of a blue wall

What advice would you give to a younger person?

Listen to the voice in your head. You know something is wrong, and you know if you have that feeling you shouldn’t be doing something. You should just walk away.

When I got into the situation that put me on probation, that’s what I had in my head. I don’t know what it was, but it told me to leave. I didn’t listen.

Every time I get into an altercation or a problem, I feel like that voice is there, and if I do what it tells me, the right thing happens and I don’t get into any trouble.

When you’re stressed out, what do you do to relax?

If I’m super heated or stressed out, I usually speak to my girlfriend. She makes me happy and calms me down a lot.

If I’m upset and have all these thoughts going through my head and the situation is going to be something bad, I’ll just look at what could happen if the situation was to get to a certain point. I look towards the future, basically.

At one point, a probation officer made me take anger management classes, and I hated them. I didn’t think it would work at all. I used to say, “How is talking to people going to help me?”

We basically would all tell our stories of how we got here. It would be a circle, and we would go around and speak about our problems and what we’ve been through. Just to hear other people’s stories—people have been through worse than me and they’ve overcome it. If I do the right thing and stay positive, I could overcome it as well.

Who inspires you?

My Arches mentor, he inspired me. He’s much older than I am, and he did something that was super bad and went away for a lot of years. To think that you would be able to go away for that long, come back, and still have a life…He has a job, he has a house, he has a car, he has everything that he wants.

He would always come in and tell stories. He would show us pictures of his car, show us pictures of his house, show us everything that he has just to inspire us and show us we can get here. At first, I used to look at it like, “This guy is just talking. I don’t believe him.” After a while, he used to show us more proof. He encouraged us and told us that to help us.

When you’re doubting yourself, what do you do to reassure yourself?

I’ll picture myself somewhere that I never thought I would be in a couple of years, for example, rich or having my own company. Stuff like that. I always say, “I’ll never become my own boss because if I start my own company, what could it be about? How could I?” There’s a lot that you have to put into it, and I doubt myself a lot.

Because I’ve been through all of this and I overcame all these obstacles, I feel like now I’m open to more things and trying different things. You never know!

Where do you see yourself at 40 or 50 years old?

When I’m 40 or 50, I would definitely have graduated from college. I would want to have my own business. I don’t know what my business is going to be, but I want to become my own boss.

My boss Brian Austin, the founder of The Animation Project, started out teaching people free animation classes. He started off from scratch, and now I’m one of his employees.

He always tells us, “I never thought I’d be here,” and just hearing stuff like that pushes me to aim towards there. I want to start my own company, business, doesn’t matter what it is. I want to be able to be in that same position—and help others.

* To learn more about these and other related programs, visit the Justice-Involved Youth Topic page on on Generation NYC.

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