No matter what fashion industry heights a starry-eyed youth might hope to climb to, they’ve got to start somewhere, and this summer, 27 New York City high school students took an impressive first step—with a chicly clad foot, of course—on their career paths by taking part in the Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program here at Barneys. We marked their success in the program with a celebratory breakfast at Freds Madison Avenue, where the students were joined by Barneys managers and executives to honor their hard work and dedication over the course of this summer’s six-week program.
Drawing students from New York’s High School of Fashion Industries, Chelsea High School, and the High School of Art & Design, the program invites students to become part of the Barneys family for the summer, working in various departments at our Madison Avenue flagship store and attending seminars in business etiquette, customer service, resume writing, and interviewing, among other vital skills. Now in its 39th year, the program has served nearly 900 students, some of whom have gone on to join the Barneys team full-time.
The program was the brainchild of Fred Pressman—the son of Barneys New York founder, Barney Pressman—who had a dream that each year he could offer a positive employment experience to students who were eager to get a foothold in the fashion industry. His rationale was simple: a constructive working environment would have a positive influence on students’ lives. In his mind, it was about providing the students with what might be their first working experience, from which they would develop new pride in themselves. The program was born from those good intentions and continues today in the spirit of Pressman’s vision.
Driving home this point, Barneys COO Daniella Vitale addressed this year’s students, advising them to jump onboard for any experience that comes their way. “Being here in New York City is a huge advantage in terms of what you have access and exposure to,” she said. “You have to seize your opportunities, because the more variety of experience you have, that’s what’s going to make you successful as people begin looking at your résumé.” Vitale also stressed the value of collaboration and teamwork, noting how important mentors have been to her own growth in the industry. “Find those people in your life that will help, guide, mentor, and support you along the way in your career; but also be there to support each other. Even though you’re just now getting started, you always have something to contribute.”
In addition to celebrating all of this year’s students, Friday’s breakfast also marked the announcement of the recipients of the 2016 Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program Scholarship: Ashley Laird, Camren Hernandez, and Gelia Brador. The selection process—which entailed an essay submission, teacher referrals, and a review of the students’ grades—awarded these three young ladies partial scholarships to the college of their choice.
“After going through this program, I know that down the road, I now know I want to work in an environment like Barneys,” scholarship recipient Carmen Hernandez said of her time at the company. “Everyone treats each other equally—everyone’s a family here and no treated us like kids. We were like their peers. I’ll be taking with me the leadership skills I got from my supervisors, and also the teamwork skills I learned throughout this process.”
Please join us in offering congratulations to all the 2016 graduates of the Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program: