It’s never too early to get a jump start on your future, and an enterprising group of high school students sent there summer with us here at Barneys doing just that. On Friday, we hosted a breakfast at Freds honoring the graduates of this summer’s Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program, which offers a constructive working environment and professional training experience to New York City teens.
Barneys executives joined the students, who hail from the High School of Fashion Industries and Chelsea High School, to mark the time they spent as part of the Barneys family this summer.
“The Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program has endured for 38 years and remains a wonderful opportunity for Barneys New York to mentor the future leaders of the fashion industry,” Mark Lee, Barneys CEO, told us. “We’re thrilled to be, for so many of these students, an introduction to the real world of working in luxury retail, and it’s been wonderful to see so many alumni of the program go on to have successful careers working in an area that they love.”
The program was the brainchild by Fred Pressman—the son of Barneys New York founder Barney Pressman—and invites students to become part of our company for the summer, working in various departments of the Madison Avenue flagship and attending seminars in business etiquette, customer service, resume writing, and interviewing, among others. And with speakers including Simon Doonan, Daniella Vitale, and Tom Kalenderian, students are getting the real inside track.
Since its founding 38 years ago, nearly 1000 students have come through the program, and as a member of the Barneys team for over 30 years, no one was better able to give this year’s crop of participants a bit of perspective than EVP, General Counsel, and head of Human Resources and Real Estate, Marc Perlowitz.
“It has always been a proud day for our company when we watch the students receive their graduation certificates and hear them speak about their experiences in the program,” Perlowitz told the students. “One thing I know for sure is that if Fred Pressman was present today, he would be very proud.”
Perlowitz also offered a bit of background on the program and its founder, telling students about Fred Pressman’s extraordinary vision and ability to develop Barneys from a discount men’s store to an internationally known specialty store. Pressman also had a dream that each year he could offer a positive employment experience to students who were eager to work at Barneys during their summer holiday. His rationale was simple—a constructive working environment would have a positive influence. 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. During the students’ tenure with us, they would become part of our company. From those good intentions, the summer youth program was born and the program continues today in the spirit of Pressman’s vision.
In addition to celebrating all of this year’s students, Friday’s breakfast also marked the announcement of the recipients of the 2015 Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program Scholarship: Diamond Baker, Janelle Guzman, and Natalia Bielonko. The selection process—which entailed, among other aspects, an essay on the most influential person or experience in the students’ lives—awarded these three young ladies partial scholarships to the college of their choice.
“It wasn’t just about coming to work every day,” scholarship recipient and High School of Fashion Industries student Natalia Bielanko told us, “it was also about a new lesson to be learned every day, whether it was organizational skills, interacting with customers, or learning about professionalism. It was always exciting.”
Congratulations to all the graduates!