Some high school students spend the precious months of summer freedom at the beach. Others spend them working toward a brighter future. Last week, members of our corporate and store teams gathered at our New York offices to celebrate the accomplishments of an exceptional group of students who completed this year’s Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program, a program that offers a constructive working environment and professional training experience to New York teens.
Marking its 40th anniversary this summer, the program was the brainchild of Fred Pressman—the son of Barneys New York founder Barney Pressman—and invites students to become part of our company for a six-week session, working in various departments of the Madison Avenue and Downtown flagships in addition to attending seminars in topics like business etiquette, customer service, resume writing, and interviewing. And with guest speakers including Barneys CEO Daniella Vitale, Fashion Director Marina Larroudé, Creative Director Matt Mazzucca, and Creative Ambassador Simon Doonan, this year’s students got the real inside track.
Upon launching the program in the 1970s, Pressman 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.
That vision was echoed by Barneys EVP of Human Resources and General Counsel, Grace Fu. “We’ve been delighted to have this outstanding group of students this summer,” Fu tells us. “They were each asked what they’d learned from the program, and their responses were a true representation of what Barneys New York stands for: diversity and inclusion, opportunity, creativity and innovation, service excellence, and teamwork. To this list, I would add leadership, because these are students who are already leaders in their own schools, and they’re growing to become leaders as adults. Certainly this opportunity helped them improve their leadership skills, since they now have more experience and confidence. They also had the opportunity to meet and speak with many of Barneys’ leaders and to learn from them directly.”
More than 1,000 students have completed the program in its four decades, going on to college and exciting careers, with some even joining Barneys as full-time employees. This year’s participants hailed from three New York-area schools, the Chelsea Career & Technical High School, the High School of Fashion Industries, and The High School of Art and Design.
In addition to celebrating all of this year’s students, last week’s ceremony also marked the announcement of the recipients of the 2017 Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program Scholarship: Miranda Bradley and Tajee Bethea. The selection process—which entailed an essay submission, teacher referrals, and a review of the students’ grades—awarded these young ladies partial scholarships to the colleges of their choice.
“This program has given me a much clearer idea of what I like and don’t like to do, which has given me a better idea of what might be best for me career-wise,” Miranda Bradley says. “I feel a lot more comfortable now, having gotten some real-world work experience even before going to college. This was a big step for me.”
Bethea echoed Bradley’s sentiments about the impact she sees the program having on her future. “Just as important as everything I learned from the program, I was able to make some connections with the people who, along with me, will be the future of the industry. For example, I met a store sales associate who went to Howard University, and since that’s where I want to go too, it was great to get her insight.”
Please join us in offering congratulations to all the 2016 graduates of the Fred Pressman Summer Youth Program:
Christopher De La Cruz
Harry D. Tamen