Meet Kyle Mena, our Superstar Summer Intern

Kyle Mena, who came to Friends of the High Line from the NYC Ladders for Leaders program, has spent the summer learning about the many facets of our organization. Photo by Liz Ligon

This week we bid farewell to Kyle Mena, our invaluable summer intern from NYC Ladders for Leaders. Kyle joined our team in July, and since then has helped complete countless tasks and projects, and provided invaluable support to our organization.

Follow us after the jump to learn more about Kyle and NYC Ladders for Leaders.

EnlargeKyle Working in the Office
EnlargeKyle out on the High Line
EnlargeKyle at Teen Flicks on the High Line

Since 2007, we have hired summer interns like Kyle through NYC Ladders for Leaders, a local government program that connects high school and college students with some of our city’s most dynamic public, private, and non-profit organizations to receive invaluable job training and exposure to the workforce. In many ways, Ladders for Leaders serves as a stepping stone for young people while still in high school and early college.

The program was launched one year earlier by Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a joint initiative between the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development and the New York City Commission on Women’s Issues to help address the need for critical professional development for the city’s teens. Program participants receive pre-employment training before starting a seven-week summer internship at partnering companies, like Friends of the High Line. The internship experience is complemented by summer workshops focusing on financial literacy, college and career exploration, health and gender issues, leadership development, and more.

In July, Kyle met Mayor Bloomberg while helping out during a ceremonial ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the naming of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook. Here, Kyle poses with the Mayor and Friends of the High Line Co-Founders Joshua David and Robert Hammond. Photo by Liz Ligon

Since its inception, Ladders for Leaders has connected nearly 1,300 young people to professional internships across a variety of industries. This summer saw biggest class of interns, with 252 young people working organizations across the city. At the High Line, Kyle learned about the many facets of managing a public park that welcomes more than four million people each year.

“Kyle has been a fantastic contributor to Friends of the High Line, providing support to a wide variety of important projects and initiatives during one of our busiest times of the year,” said Melissa Fisher, Chief Operating Officer at Friends of the High Line. “His professionalism, positive attitude, and willingness to apply his time and energy to any task or project at hand has been widely noticed and greatly appreciated by everyone on our team.”

During his time at our organization, Kyle has worked on our administrative team, learning everything it takes to maintain a bustling office, and gaining insight into customer service and human resources at non-profit organizations. He has also helped out at our public programs, participated in our recent visitor surveys, worked on compiling our design archives, and managed incoming phone calls from people around the world with questions about the High Line.

About his experience at the High Line, Kyle says, “I feel like I’ve come a long way during my time at the High Line – from not even knowing about it at all, to being super excited about working here and really getting to know the High Line community. It has been a great experience for me.”

We recently chatted with Kyle about his internship at Friends of the High Line.

Friends of the High Line: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kyle Mena: I’m a native New Yorker, from Washington Heights. This fall I’ll be beginning classes at Seton Hall University. In my free time, I like to hang out my friends and spend time with my family. I’m really excited to show them the park!

How did you get involved with Ladders for Leaders?
I was introduced to Ladders for Leaders through an organization I used to work for called Hope Leadership Academy, which is part of the Children’s Aid Society. They told me about the position and ended up applying. I’d never heard of the High Line before then, and was pleasantly surprised when I came here for the first time.

Was there anything about working at the High Line this summer that has surprised you?
Definitely the high number of tourists that come from all over the United States and even from different countries! I’m still surprised at how many different people find their way here and the number of volunteers we have from the neighborhood. It amazes me that they give a lot of their time to contribute to the park’s growth.
I’m also surprised by the number of people who attend events on the High Line, especially at our Teen Flicks! There are so many people that live in the area and are able to enjoy fun things like this. I’ve really enjoyed being out in the park and being able to help answer questions, like I did at the Rail Yards presentation. There are so many people who are intrigued by the next section of the High Line, showing that there will definitely be more support to finish the park.

What has been your favorite part of working at the High Line?
In addition to getting to know the history of the High Line, I just love meeting new people on staff and getting to be a part of the High Line community. Even wearing the High Line staff shirt has made me feel like I’m at home here. I really like talking to people in the park, too!

What has been the most challenging part of working at the High Line?
When I first started, I wanted to learn more about the phones and answering the phones and be able to be phone-savvy. As the weeks have gone by, it was difficult, but with more and more practice, I’ve accomplished one of my goals in customer service. I feel comfortable being able to handle any type of request – it’s been eye-opening being able to talk to so many different people with different backgrounds.

What have you learned during your time here? How have you been able to use that in your Ladders for Leaders program?
I learned about the many different aspects of managing a public space like the High Line. I also got a behind-the-scenes look at the interview process, which was pretty cool. Overall I feel like I’ve learned how things happen here, not just in the park, and I’ve also learned how to better prioritize my time!

What are your plans after the High Line? What’s next from here?
I’m going off to my first year of college, starting at the end of August. I’m super excited to start a new chapter in my life, but I know I’ll be spending a lot of time at the High Line in the near future, as well.

What advice would you give to others wanting to intern at the High Line?
Definitely stay open while you’re working on the High Line. You never know what you’re going to be doing from day-to-day. You might be in the office one day, and the next day you are out on the High Line to help with surveying. Just keep an open-mind and always be willing to learn new things, new tasks, and have fun!

Kyle has been a wonderful addition to the team. We are impressed with his professionalism and enthusiasm, and we can’t wait to see what is in store for him in the future. Thank you, Kyle, and best of luck on your new adventures at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

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