The Queens World Film Festival hosted Passion in Action on April 22, a day-long mentoring event bringing together high school and college students with professionals in arts, sciences, media, finance, sports, nonprofit sectors and more. Through a series of mini workshops, students learned how to behave confidently, not blow an interview, write their mission statement, and how to perfect an elevator pitch. In the latter half of the day students were able to mingle with professionals in various industries, hear about their career journey and ask them questions about how they got to where they are today. 

From left to right, Epicenter’s Carolina Valencia, Queens World Film Festival’s Don Preston and Katha Cato, and The Gaia Zine’s Isabel Tiburcio. Photo: Epicenter-NYC

Isabel Tiburcio, founder of The Gaia Zine, an organization that amplifies the voices of young creatives by publishing their work, teaching technical and business skills, believes the Passion in Action event is important as many students in attendance would not have gotten the resources to meet these professionals, network with them and gain skills. The Gaia Zine was one of the sponsors for this youth mentoring event.

“In creative industries especially, it is really all about who you know and getting your foot in the door. If you are not given those resources from when you are young, if you don’t happen to know someone super famous that your dad went to college with, you have to forge many of these connections yourself,” Tiburcio says. “Through this event students are learning to network with people who could potentially help you later down the line.”

Students were taught networking skills and how to make connections. Photo: Carolina Valencia

Students with a variety of backgrounds and learning styles were able to connect and learn. 

Katha Cato, executive director for the Queens World Film Festival and the event organizer, was inspired to see these students, some who have been through so much, in the room advancing their careers.

“[People can see the importance of] community. I think that many of these young people felt alone. If you look at the ‘Passion Professionals’ there’s all different types, all different types the students can see themselves in. That’s hugely empowering,” Cato says. 

If there is one thing that Cato hopes students take away from the event, is that they belong in the room.

Councilmember Shekar Krishnan stopped by with some encouraging words for the students. Photo: Epicenter-NYC

“[I want them to say] I belong in the room, and if there is no room, I want them to say ‘I will build my own room,’” she says. 

Tiburcio agrees and believes this event is a stepping stone into fruitful careers.

“Yes, it’s harder to accomplish these things when it isn’t served to you on a silver platter, but you can go out and find a silver platter. I think they shouldn’t be discouraged if they did not have the resources,” Tiburcio says. “Just by being here they already took the first step in making their creative career into a reality.” 

The day wrapped up with several students empowered to go in front of the step & repeat and deliver their elevator pitch and mission statement in front of their new connections. As each student put to practice what they learned, the room erupted with applause and smiles in awe of their courage and their passion in action. An event that was one for the books.

Passion in Action was sponsored by the New York Women in Film and Television, Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, The Gaia Zine, and Epicenter-NYC.

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