Trip to Museum of Food and Drink


Yvessey, Rising 10th grader

The Museum of Food and Drink is an incredible place. It is small, but that is the beauty of it. There are two sections with a lot of interactive activities which teach about Chinese American food. We learned that due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese restaurants were the only businesses that Chinese people could run. These store owners had to make food that appealed to Americans, causing Chinese food to become Americanized. Also, we were able to make our own origami fortune cookies, smell different scents and learn how to flip a wok.

SAYA Youth Visit Spotify


Omer, Rising 9th grader
My experience to spotify headquarters was very informative and very fun. They told us about their roles and how they expand the company to different countries for more people to listen to music. They also took us on a tour around the building and showed us where their work spaces were, in addition they took us to the cafeteria. They also took us to the game room and showed us where they had parties, which was on the roof. One of my favorite parts was when we got the chance to ask the employees any questions we had about Spotify. Going to Spotify headquarters was very cool.

Daisy, Rising 9th grader
Visiting Spotify might have been one the most enjoyable and entertaining trips this summer. At first, I thought of it as boring until I actually arrived at the place. It was interesting to find out all the different roles, how everyone has a special job and how the employees bond. It might not sound like much, but it makes you realize how going to such trips can be pleasant.

End of Summer Billiards Trip


By Fariba

Our SIPS end of summer trip was to BQE Billiards. SIPS is the coed leadership group for rising high school Seniors. For most of us, this was our first time playing pool. At first, I could barely maneuver the pool stick properly to get a strong hit. But after three hours of practicing, I definitely got the hang of it. My friends and I played game after game, and the excitement never seemed to go away. As we lost and won several games, we all figured that billiards was now our favorite game. We also played air hockey and ping-pong which was very enjoyable but, I really loved playing pool. Furthermore, the food was great. We had hot wings, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and fries. 

Overall, the trip was very enjoyable mainly because it was with some of the best people that I've ever met. We all had become great friends after spending six weeks with each other in the SIPS program at SAYA. This trip for the last day of the program was a great way to say goodbye for the summer. We had so much fun and I know that I definitely want to go back at some point. 

Visit to Worcester State University

By Stephano and Araya

From July 26-July 28, 2017 we attended a college visit trip provided to us by SAYA, in order to ascertain and examine which colleges and Universities we may want to go to and what they look like, including their standards and locations. We attended multiple universities, but one of the most interesting ones was Worcester University, showing much promise in multiple fields and our interests. On our trip we learned many facts about the university and its features. “Worcester State University has a variety of clubs and communities, with over 35 and counting.” To us, it seemed like a very interesting, beautiful and impressive place to commence studying our majors. 

Locations and the City’s Background
-Parking all around school grounds
-In and out of state tuition: +21k including housing
-Focused mostly on Arts and Sciences, with specialties in Medicine and Computer Science
-Located in Worcester
-Offers Bachelor's and Master's degrees
-Acceptance rate: 69%
-A Public school in Massachusetts
-Diverse student population
-Student dormitories located on campus; along with therapists and counseling

-Library contains a Starbucks cafe and lounge room
-If you are part of the Honors Classes or Programs, you are allowed the opportunity to have lunch with President and main figures of the University

Sullivan Academic Center 
-Is the main building of the University, and is a study department offering education in: Math, Liberal arts and literature, Law and legal issues
-Financial aid classes
-Contains an office where a college campus card may be bought that is used to pay for stuff on campus or pay bills

Worcester State University Career & Majors Choices
-Science and technology majors (Doctors, medicine, computer science)
-Students given access to Art gallery for free and allowed to post art.
-Labs: clinic skills, ADL, sensor-lab
-A Communication disorder center and training.
-Nursing department complete with its own office and robots to practice and improve students skills.
-Professional training and classes for therapy majors.
-Design courses in the fields of fashion.

The Wellness and Athletics Center
-New building, opened last September, and includes an indoor high tech gym
-2 floors
-50% of all power from the generators at the University provided from students working out on the cardio equipment
-Yoga, dance and self defense for men and women
-A lounge room
-National teams
-No swimming clubs or pools, but there is a YMCA downtown
Dowden Hall
-Only freshman
-Convenience store
-Living room
-Traditional style
-Boys wing, girls wing
-Study room
-Room comes with own dresser, desk, bed, closet
-Has single rooms and double rooms 

Sheahan Hall
-Main dining hall
-2 pool tables and table soccer
-Gorgeous view of the field
-Includes multiple delis, kitchens, hotline and salad bars and my favorite, an ice cream station

Chandler Village
-Only has upper class students
-Much like an apartment
-Has a fountain nearby and lots of beautiful scenery

SAYA Youth Visit 5 Colleges in the Boston Area

Each year, SAYA high school youth have the opportunity to attend two overnight college trips, one in the spring and one in the summer. This summer, 37 youth participated in the overnight trip to the Boston area and explored Amherst College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Wheaton College and Worcester State University. 

By Rifaeat, 12th grade

Tufts University is a lush, green campus that is open and large. It has a lot of space to breathe and was by far one of the best colleges I’ve visited. The info session was filled with valuable advice and information about both applying to college as well as Tufts. It is a full need met college, which is a great opportunity for many students that visited Tufts University and it gives everyone a chance. Tufts does not look heavily upon grades, rather it looks on both grades as well as things you do outside of the classes. Extracurricular activities, college essays and anything outside of school look great. This university gives everyone a chance knowing that grades don’t make up a person as a whole. Along with this, Tufts is a very social college that encourages you to live on campus for the first two years to get to know the university and its students and be social and actively involved within the college. It’s a perfect college for students like me and many others that went on the trip with me. When you’re in the college, you have a variety of options as the university has over 100 majors and minors to choose from. Not many colleges stand out to me, but Tufts definitely piqued my interest and I’m glad I was able to have the chance to visit it.

By Jeff, 12th grade
It was time to leave Tufts University before heading out to the next college. By that time, I was exhausted, I wanted to go back to the hotel and the rain really didn’t help set the mood. We started walking to an entrance. It was just plain and dull, nothing really exciting. Seconds later, I was flabbergasted. The university looked as something from a sci-fi movie, it was so high tech. shortly after, the tour guides came out and welcomed us to Northeastern University.

The tour guides showed me around the campus, and it was enormous. Right off the bat, I was interested in exploring, and I didn’t mind pushing my tired body that had already gone through enough walking for one day, to go just a bit more further. The tour guides also showed me a dorm and it was a decent size, unlike the other colleges I visited on my trip. The tour guides also told me that students are required to dorm at the university for two years, to make students feel welcomed and part of a community.

My heart had already been set on attending Hofstra University. Their Computer Science program offers a co-op program that gives students the ability to take an internship at a big company like Google or Apple for a semester. As the tour guides were talking about liberal arts, I was looking around at the size of the building. Suddenly, I hear “we have a co-op program” I looked up and to my amazement, Northeastern University offers the same program that I one day would like to join. I fell in love with the campus, the technology, the dorms--it was a wonderful experience. When the tour was done and it was time to leave, I was bummed. I still wanted learn so much more.  As the bus started moving away, I said to myself, “this is the college I want to apply to.”

By Shiwani, 12th grade
When I first heard about Northeastern University I thought of it as a city school that had no
campus life. But after visiting the school I realized that there was a better campus life than the
ones in New York City. The location of the university made it feel like home because of the city
upbringing I had. Along with that, they offered a Co-op Program which gave students internships in the fields they wanted to practice. This was really important because if I was unsure about a career, I could get the real-life experience in the field. I would consider this university as one of my top 5 choices.

By Hirakh, 12th grade
Wheaton College is private liberal arts school located in Norton, Massachusetts, 39 miles away from Boston. When I arrived at the school, I saw a very spacious campus with a lot of greenery. For a small college I was surprised with the amount of space they possessed. The admission rate in the college is very low, making the college essay an important part of the application. I think that a student looking for a small friendly environment to be in would have Wheaton College on their list. They also offer a variety of study abroad programs for their students. They highly encourage their students to study abroad as it brings new experiences in a different countries. The students in the college are friendly and respectful making the campus a welcoming place for incoming freshmen.

SAYA Youth Explore Asia Society Museum's South Asian Diaspora Art Exhibit

By Omar, 12th grade

SAYA took a trip to the Asia Society Museum to see the Lucid Dreams and Distant Visions: South Asian Art in the Diaspora exhibit. After visiting the Museum I was pleasantly surprised by how different every piece of art was and the diversity of the artists themselves. What stood out to me most was Anila Quayyum Agha’s "Crossing Boundaries". Hanging from the ceiling was a cube with a design which was carved into it through the use of lasers, which closely resembled designs used in mosques and stained glass in churches. There is also a light in the middle of the cube which projects an image across the room. Agha began creating this type of art after her mother died and it is called "Crossing Boundaries" due to the fact that growing up in Pakistan, women generally don't go to mosques for prayer. So she made this to symbolize a space where everyone is welcome. Agha's son got married around the same time her mother passed away so this intricate design carved into steel symbolizes dealing with a tough and good moment at the same time. This was my favorite art piece throughout the entire exhibit and I thoroughly enjoyed the museum as a whole.  

By Abdul, 12th grade

I along with members of the Young Men's Leadership group traveled to the upper east side last week to explore the Asia Society Museum. It was a great experience to see all the pieces of art that represented Asia as a whole. The diversity of the artwork was something that I really appreciated. Although the amount of art was nothing compared to a museum such as the Museum of Moving the Image, I still felt that the various pieces of art were very appealing. One piece that caught my eye was the “Emperor of No Country” done by Jaret Vadera. It expressed the idea of how, before the world split up literally and metaphorically, we were all one without any dictator or ruler. All names of places in the world were crossed out which I personally thought was a simple but clever thing to do. Overall the exhibition was intriguing. 

SAYA's 4th Annual Young Women's Leadership Conference: Culture Con 2k17

By Sabrina, 11th grade

On Saturday May 20th, 2017 Culture Con 2K17: Embracing our Experiences, Shaping our Identities took place at SAYA. This event was a result of two months of hard work by SAYA’s Desi Young Women's Leadership group. We learned how to organize and facilitate every detail of the conference. 

The day started off with registration and breakfast, followed by our empowering keynote speaker Sayu Bhojwani, who is also the founder of SAYA. She spoke about her immigrant experience and the importance of contributing to the cultures around us. 

Next, the breakout workshops took place. The three workshops were:
Is it Appropriate?: Cultural Stereotyping and Appropriation
Beauty is not a Duty: Women, Gender and Culture
Third Culture Kids: Sharing and Creating Culture

Participants got to choose which two workshops they wanted to attend. I was a catalyst in both sessions of Beauty is not a Duty, which meant that I helped the facilitators run the workshop by engaging with the other participants. It was an empowering experience being able to provide my insight on my personal ideals of beauty, interacting with other young women and each of us brainstorming ideas and sharing our opinions. We also had the opportunity to produce drawings that portray our personal philosophies of beauty.

Lisha, Loviena, Briana, and Liset were the facilitators of this workshop. They were extremely energetic and confident. In the first session, we discussed the hazards of an individual becoming too obsessed with their appearance to the extent that it affects other life goals. Briana provided an example of how one of her friends would not leave the house without her false eyelashes, and it even affected her academics. Participants gave their own examples and facilitators distinguished between healthy and unhealthy practices. For example, getting gastric bypass surgery or losing weight for the primary purpose of better health, versus gastric bypass surgery or losing weight due to societal pressure and body image disorder. 

In the second session, we started off with an icebreaker, which was introducing ourselves to someone we don’t know. The girl I spoke to, Monira, was extremely warm and friendly. Upon speaking to her, I found out we shared the same cultural background and that she came to the U.S. only a few years ago. At one point, we even spoke in Bangla. 

Then we all drew what beauty means to us personally. I drew an outline of the brain and wrote: empathy, intelligence, devotion, humility, and kindness, because the brain is an in internal organ and these characteristics to me are internal aspects of beauty. Then we were counted off and put in groups. Each member of the group shared what they drew and elaborated as to how their drawing depicts their idea of beauty. The facilitators also shared their own drawings with us. At the end of the session, we posted our drawings together onto a large board titled "Beauty Is..." so that we could co-create our own open and diverse definition of beauty. 

After the end of the two sessions, we had lunch. There were ethnic dishes from various parts of the world, including Ethiopian vegan cuisine, Middle Eastern kabobs and falafel, Japanese sushi and Nepali dishes. After lunch there was an energetic dance performance by William Cullen Bryant High School's K-pop Dance group. Then participants spent two hours trying different fun activities, like dancing to cultural music, taking pictures with friends in the photo booth, contributing to a community painting, and applying henna and temporary tattoos.

The afternoon ending with cake cutting and receiving SAYA Culture Con 2017 t-shirts. It was a privilege being able to organize this event with my fellow SAYA Desi Young Women’s Leadership peers. I look forward to attending the next event.

*SAYA's Desi Young Women's Leadership Conference was made possible through support from the NYC Fund for Girls and Young Women of Color, managed and housed by the New York Women's Foundation. 

Exploring Colleges in Upstate New York


During the Spring semester, SAYA high school youth take a three day trip to visit colleges. This year, the trip was to was to Upstate New York and included a range of different campus and school types, allowing youth to get familiar with their options and discover their preferences. Students visited Iona College, Skidmore College, SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Purchase and Union College.

By Shreya and Mark
The first college that we visited as a SAYA group was Iona College. Because it was the first school we were seeing, we were all very excited. Our presenter gave us information and a whole run-down to what the school is all about and we felt very welcomed. From its academic 5-year programs which allow students to obtain their bachelor's and master's degree in five years rather than six, to its variety of countries for studying abroad, it is easy to say we literally fell in love with the school. After the tour, we had lunch as a group in Iona’s cafeteria, which had food choices ranging from tacos to chicken tenders to sushi. Only 35 minutes from New York City and with its small and easily accessible campus, Iona is definitely somewhere to apply to.

By Joyeta
SUNY New Paltz is a college located near the Hudson River valley with an undergraduate population of 6,699. With this average sized pool of students, there is a student to faculty ratio of 15 to 1. The school’s requirements include an 89 to 94 high school GPA with an SAT score ranging from 1090 to 1240. SUNY New Paltz is a scenic campus in a rural setting where most incoming first years live in dorms. One of the most popular majors is psychology, which is also one of the most popular majors in the country. Media is another popular major followed by sociology and early childhood education. Overall, the school seems to be very art and business oriented. According to many reviews, SUNY New Paltz is not very science oriented, however they've recently opened a new science building, so that may be subject to change with future students. 

By Lamiha
The last college we visited, SUNY New Paltz, left me with an excited feeling for my future process in choosing a college to attend. Upon arriving, we were first taken to The Atrium which was a triangular glass building famously representing SUNY New Paltz. This peculiar yet unique building really set the idea of what type of school SUNY New Paltz is. Our tour guides were all part of the social club SACA (South Asian Cultural Association) that celebrates South Asian culture and highlights the taboos present in the community. In addition, they really stressed that faculty at the school are very cooperative and willing to do whatever needed for their students such as hiring professors or organizing classes to fit a student's particular major or interests. The school's accelerated medical program allows students to graduate in three years and guarantees an interview with a linked medical school. Students also have the ability to form their own clubs, organize events on campus and take part in international trips. The school's Red Cross club fundraises for impoverished countries and then takes a trip to that country to do further charity work. Students in the club recently went to Honduras and do not necessarily have to be in the medical track to take part in this. Overall, SUNY New Paltz left an impression on me that may lead me to apply there. 

SAYA Young Men Take a Trip to Madame Tussauds


On February 21 the SAYA young men’s group went to the Madame Tussauds wax museum in Manhattan near Times Square. Honestly, it was a great time. For someone who does not visit the city very often, being able to visit was a fun experience. During the trip we got to see many iconic figures as wax statues and we took a lot of photos. After the wax museum we walked around the city for a while trying to decide where to eat. When we finally found a place and started eating, the crew began discussing various topics and we really got to know and understand each other. Thanks to the trip we were able given to learn and bond. I feel the opportunity to go to this trip provided me with a better sense of community and fellowship. Being able to travel to the city with my peers really expanded my horizons. I felt honored to have been able to attend with the group.

SAYA Young Women Visit Cooper Hewitt

During the Spring Semester, SAYA’s Desi Young Women’s Leadership Program took a trip to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. On this Saturday excursion, youth explored the By the People: Designing a Better America exhibition and chose which designs spoke to them. This exhibition demonstrated over 60 designs seeking to address issues of social and economic inequality within the country. Design ideas ranged from simple marketing techniques with the intention of making consumers think about everyday products in a different way, to entire community structures designed to specifically accommodate the demographics present in the area. After taking in this part of the museum and discussing the ideas that the group found interesting, SAYA youth had the opportunity to try their hand at designing their own solutions at the Process Lab. In the Process Lab, visitors to the museum choose values that are important to them, such as education or diversity, and combine these values with design tactics to create ideas that answer questions such as “how might we increase access to healthy food?” or “how might we encourage people to read?”After working on individual designs, creators can compare their combination of values, design tactics and question to be answered with ideas created by past museum-goers. Overall, the trip demonstrated the power of creative thinking and innovative design in tackling some of today's most pressing social issues. 

SAYA Visits Facebook



On February 22nd SAYA’s Young Men and Young Women’s Leadership classes took a day trip to the NYC Facebook offices. This was an opportunity for us, as high school students, to explore our options for careers in the future, specifically at Facebook. The office environment was open, technological and people-friendly. The highlight of the trip, for me, was the interactive discussion we had with Facebook employees. We talked about their company and what they each do, as well as today’s society and the use of social media in the future. Speaking for my fellow peers, I would say, we were able to relate with the Facebook team on many aspects.

I was able to take away a number of things from this trip. Such as. social media should be used for a purpose that is positive and beneficial for others and even the world’s biggest social ground is still learning, like us. I also learned more about Facebook’s privacy settings. Social media is an opportunity for our voices as one whole community to change the world by a click of “like”, a “comment”, or a “share”. So use it wisely! Facebook is just one of our many canvases and we are all painters.

SAYA Alumni Ice Skating Event

In an effort to maintain and grow our alumni network, SAYA hosted our winter alumni event at the City Pavilion Ice Skating Rink in Queens. With a healthy turnout of 20 of our college enrolled alums, SAYA staff had the opportunity to re-engage with their former participants. Our students were visibly elated to be in each other’s presence again as a cohort. Tam, a first year honors student at CUNY Baruch remarked, “it was a fun time seeing old faces, hanging out with my friends and being reminded of why I came to SAYA: the fellowship and the opportunity to share and be open”. After two hours on the ice, we all returned to the Elmhurst Center for lunch and discussion. Students introduced themselves, the college they attend, and their intended major. SAYA staff had each student describe the highlights and challenges of their Fall semester.  It was encouraging for each student to hear that they were not alone in some of their fears and anxieties. The alumni exchanged tips to overcome the hurdles they faced and celebrated each other for their successes. As SAYA builds its alumni network, we will host seasonal events similar to this one.

Reflection on the Play ReconFigured


On January 6th, some ARISE, DYW and DYM students went to see the play "ReconFigured" at The Tank in Manhattan. The play "ReconFigured" was a great play! After seeing it, it made me realize that many people can have many different personal struggles that some wouldn't think of. Some examples of these struggles are being treated differently after becoming a transgender, coping with a miscarriage, and having a family that looks different from you. Another thing I likes about this play is that it was as humorous as it was touching. Some scenes, such as "Menopause" and "Poop" provided comic relief from other scenes that were more emotional.

SAYA Youth Visit DAG Modern Art Gallery


On December 17, the students of Desi Young Men (DYM) attended a trip to the DAG Modern art gallery in Manhattan. Upon arrival, we were quickly greeted by Sunil Chaddha , who gave us a tour of some of the art that the gallery had to offer from their "Art of Bengal" exhibit. After the tour, students were given time to explore the gallery for themselves. Many of us, including myself, found the art, the use of different art styles such as cross-hatching and fauvism, and the backstories behind each piece of art, interesting. Afterwards, we sat and had a group conversation with Sunil, where we learned about his art background, his many career changes, and his interest in art. When we left, not only did I appreciate the art of a different culture more, but I also walked away learning more about the history of Bengal and India.

Holiday Card Making at MS 172

This December, the students of MS 172's Desi Young Women's Leadership class all enjoyed a seasonally festive holiday card-making activity. Equipped with an ample supply of colorful stickers, stamps, glitter-glue, markers, glitter-pens, crayons and pencils, the young women were able to transform blank cards and envelopes into masterpieces of their own. Each student was given the assignment to make an entirely unique card with a special message for another student, and were later offered the opportunity to make another card for a family member or friend. While some students chose to brainstorm acrostic poems utilizing their classmates' names, others decided to write witty jokes in their holiday card messages--either way, they were all able to channel their inner artist and celebrate the holidays with this heart-warming activity. 

SAYA Youth Attend Town Hall Discussion



Like most youths at SAYA, I was excited for the town hall organized by Chaaya, as it was a trip, but I was unsure of what it would be like. I knew that it would focus on recent events, specifically the election, and how those events impacted the immigrant community. I expected it to be a relatively small gathering in which things I have heard before would be repeated. However, I was surprised by the amount of people who attended and learned quite a lot about the effects of the election and how, as an ordinary member of the community, I could help out.

Comptroller Stringer, Senator Jose Peralta, and four panelists discussed the fear and confusion resulting from the election, specifically regarding the 31% increase in hate crime. Comptroller Stringer and Senator Peralta discussed the need to create a firewall for what we are willing to accept from our leaders, NYC’s status as a sanctuary city, and the importance of immigrants to the community. The panelists discussed immigrants’ rights, the legal steps an immigrant should take in response to the election, and how an immigrant should respond to an ICE agent. In addition, a panelist discussed how to help anyone who is being verbally harassed or targeted. I found this to be the most useful as it allows everyone, including youths, to not be just be bystanders.

The most moving part of the town hall, however, was when attendees of the event spoke about their own fears and experiences. I was struck by how much the election and its aftermath affects their lives. I realized that as a young female of colour, it affects me as well. In my mind, this strengthened the importance of community leaders and reiterated the overall message of working as a community to see positive changes in the world in which we live. I am grateful for the organizations that hosted the town hall and the opportunity to go to it through SAYA.


SAYA Youth Learn about Consulting and Resume Writing at Deloitte

By Rifaeat, GRADE 11 

At first I was very reluctant to go on the Deloitte trip because I didn’t think that it would benefit me. However, when I got there my mind was very quickly changed. Deloitte ended up teaching me and helping me with many things. During the first half of our visit we had one-on-one talks with members of Deloitte about our resumes. I didn’t bring a resume, but even then I was able to talk for nearly an hour with someone who gave me valuable information and talked about what should and shouldn’t be on my resume. I was shown a resume that looked perfect, but the Deloitte speaker was able to point out mistakes and things that could have been improved. It was very easy to relate to them since they were people like us who had no idea what they wanted to be and didn’t instantly know what they wanted to do. They went to college, worked on resumes and had first hand experience of success and failure of their own. The advice and suggestions given to me by Deloitte will definitely stick with me and help me in making my own resume when I need to.

Another thing we did was something called “Shark Tank.” They gave us a problem and in groups of four, we had to create a solution. Our guide, Iram, helped us out a lot with the problem and we were able to create a presentation in a short amount of time. The “Shark Tank” activity showed us a real world situation that could likely happen, gave us valuable experience and helped a lot of people who didn’t like public speaking. The activity was very valuable in many ways and as someone who hates public speaking, the “Shark Tank: activity helped me get over that by forcing me to speak to everyone in a group alongside other people that were shy. I had to step up and try and keep the presentation together, and apparently I did just that according to the judges.

The Deloitte trip was something I wasn’t excited about, but after I experienced it, I’m very glad I went. I don’t think I’ve had a trip that has really been of value to me like this trip. The advice given to me will always be in my head ready to be used, and of course thanks to the Deloitte employees I was able to get a much better understanding of what consultants do. They really amazed me with their dedication and hard work, both the trip and the volunteers that came to help us really did just that, I’m sure there isn’t a single SAYA student who walked out saying the trip was boring or useless.

Desi Young Women's Program Create Self-Care Kits

By Sakikun, Shrika and Mithila, Grade 12

Throughout this summer at DYW, we have discussed self love and being emotionally well. Today we decided to create our own self care packages for the moments when we feel discontent. We personalized the tool kit by giving it a name, decorating it, and filling it up with quotes and pictures that soothe and comfort us. A first aid kit, but for our emotions. Using these comforts as band-aids when life decides to give us a little paper cut.

ARISE Program Learns About High School Student Rights


As school starts once again, rising Freshmen and Sophomores learn about their rights as high school students. A lawyer from Queens Legal Services in charge of  the Education Rights Project, Tara Foster, visited the ARISE members on August 16 for a presentation. During her presentation we learned about what rights we have as high school students, such as, your personal belongings cannot be searched without a good enough reason and you cannot be expelled unless you are at least 17 years old. After the presentation, we had a group chat where we asked about other rights we have in school and scenarios we would be able to use those rights. This was an important experience because the presentation allowed me to learn about my own rights. It is good for more students to know, especially if they ever get into a situation where they have to know their rights.

SAYA Youth Explore Colleges

By Nusrat, Grade 12

When it comes to junior and senior year of high school, students are busy with finding information and selecting colleges. Not to mention, many students are afraid of college, since they have always dreamed of it but never experienced it. 

With the goal of preparing high school students for college and career, South Asian Youth Action holds a lot of youth leadership programs and take students on campus tours to different prestigious colleges around the country. This summer, during August, the SAYA college trip was to upstate New York to the some of the most popular colleges in the state. During the trip we visited Syracuse University, University of Rochester, RIT, Cornell University and SUNY Binghamton. Simultaneously, youth got the opportunity to enthusiastically learn more about college, and to travel outside of the city. After being exposed to the different curricula of colleges, youth choose what’s best for them. 

University of Rochester


In navigating the plethora of colleges and universities in existence, students struggle most in their journey of finding a school perfectly suited to their interests. We all have ambitions and aspirations that may have had to take a backseat in our path to finding a secure and well payed job; the University of Rochester believes in no such compromises.

This University not only accepts but even encourages diversity in educational interests. While many schools limit the combinations of double major possibilities to similar departments, the University of Rochester has no problem with you being in pre-med and having a dance minor.

Better yet, this school doesn’t have any required subjects! Rochester prides itself in this liberal curriculum, as the extra time allows more students to take up to 3 majors throughout the school’s three divisions of learning.

Clusters are something unique to the University of Rochester; they give students the opportunity to have even more control and flexibility over their own course loads. Clusters are “a set of related courses that fall within one of the three academic divisions.” They bear at least 12 credits, and are often even created by the students to conform to their own interests and desires.

Rochester has a mandatory writing class due to their belief that expression and eloquence are necessities in all fields of expertise. When taking a tour through the campus our guide explained one of the initiatives of the school; the University of Rochester believes writing is a form of expression that is beneficial to engineers, writers, and all subject areas in between.

Walking through the campus revealed to us students of varying appearances, races and genders. From this limited sample size of summer students at the University of Rochester, it can be gathered that the community is quite diverse. With the school’s well rounded and encouraging curriculum, their underground hallways to avoid the extreme weather of the seasons, and their diverse community of students, the University of Rochester is an ideal school with great academic rigor and diversity.

Cornell University


With its great hilltop views to the many trees from various species, you’ll never be bored walking through Cornell University. This prestigious university isn’t known for its landscapes, but it will surely overwhelm you with courses ranging from Asian American Studies to Veterinary Medicine. During my experience touring this school, it really made me wish that I could redo high school to achieve the grades that would allow me to even think about applying to Cornell. To the lowerclassmen reading, I suggest you pick up the books and study hard, and to the upperclassmen, it may or may not be a little too late to get the grades this noble university is patiently waiting for.

Once reaching Cornell University, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the campus because it reminded me of more agriculturally soothing Hogwarts. Never would I have thought to be blessed with the opportunity to tour the Ivy League university, and my tour guide made sure that we would fall in love with her school. I like to think of Cornell University as its own city, especially since it caters to around 20,000 students, which is crazy because I thought my high school was overcrowded with just about 3,000 students! Don’t worry about ever feeling alone because there are over 1,000 clubs, such as Bhangra, Cycling, Writing, and even a club fit for the Harry Potter fans, Quidditch.

On to the academics, Cornell obviously fits this category well. With a highly selective admissions rate of 14.2%, Cornell looks to find the best of the best from all of the applicants. The university contains 14 colleges and schools; the two largest undergraduate colleges are the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Cornell’s popular majors include Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Business. Your major shouldn’t bring you down to only choosing courses specific to its category, especially with 4,000 courses across 100 academic departments, so knock yourself out with diverse courses to fit your interests in any field.

The shine from our tour guide’s constant smile proved that Cornell is everything to be proud about. One fact she shared with us was that one notable alumni, Bill Nye the Science Guy visits and takes whoever resides in his previous dorm out to dinner.

Rochester Institute of Technology

By Aritra, Grade 12

Tuesday morning, it was 6:30 AM and I realized I was late to go to the SAYA center where we were supposed to meet with everyone. However, I ran to my closet and grabbed some fresh clothes to wear and ran to the bus stop. I was surprised that when I went to the center, I was one of the early arrivers there. So early that the door for the center was locked. Even though we didn’t leave until 8 AM, it felt satisfying to not be late. When I got onto the bus, one of many things that excited me was that I was going to visit two of the colleges that I have been wanting to visit for a long time.

I was excited to visit Rochester Institute of Technology because I have heard many compliments about their STEM programs. RIT is not a prestigious school for liberal arts degree or any kind of degree other than STEM. Nonetheless, their engineering program is nationally recognized by many large companies. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Oracle, and Intel hire graduates from RIT every year. In addition, Microsoft is one of RIT’s many industrial partners, which means some of RIT’s curriculum is made according to their standard and reviewed by professionals working in those companies. RIT also hosts the only Microelectronic Engineering program in the whole United States that is accredited by ABET. RIT students are required to do Co-op in their fifth year in order to graduate; co-ops help graduates learn practical uses of what they learn.

Some of the cons of RIT is that 70% or more of the students are male and only 30% are female students. You definitely will see more guys hanging around the campus than girls. Lack of trees around the campus area could be a negative thing, though, there is a huge park behind the campus. Not to mention, if you love snow then don’t worry you will have plenty of it if you go to RIT, so much snow that you might be able to catch some snow in the beginning of summer. Every building in RIT is made out of the same colored bricks, so if that’s your style then you will love it.

In conclusion, Rochester Institute of Technology is a great school for anyone who is interested in STEM. One can totally see their tech oriented environment just by noticing all the amazing projects sitting around the campus. In my opinion, I can see myself going to that school as a student someday.

Syracuse University

By Angie, Grade 12

After approximately a four hour ride on the bus, SAYA’s youth and their chaperones laid eyes on the first college of their tour. Syracuse University had a big, beautiful campus that had hills where students had fun sledding down during the winter. They had a mix of new and old buildings that were covered in vines. This, in my opinion, gave the campus character.

The school offered over 300 clubs for students to participate in during college. These included debate, dance, Greek life, gaming, and more! Something that seemed really helpful was they had their own ambulances called Syracuse University Ambulance. This health-services based student organization helps over 1,500 emergencies each year. This is helpful because students won’t have to pay for the cost of ambulances and since it’s on campus, they could respond to emergencies faster and rush students to the nearest hospital.

There was a funny anecdote about how the school got their colors. Their colors use to be pink and pea green. However, the track team got made fun of their colors so they had a meeting and told the chancellor about their experience. Thus, their school colors were changed to orange since no school had claimed that color.