Post 1: Building Paths with BridgeYear


Hello everyone! Considering this is my first post, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Allan Zelaya Mata, and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University studying Chemistry and Environmental Studies. For this summer, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the intern team at the non-profit organization by the name of BridgeYear. Now, I should mention that BridgeYear is a fairly new, yet tremendously impactful, organization located at the heart of Houston, Texas. Yes, Houston does have the Space Center and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, but it also has an overwhelming amount of opportunity youth.

This group of youth are usually people between 16 and 24 years old who are out of school and currently not working. BridgeYear’s mission is to engage this group with career exploration opportunities though hands-on experiences with high-paying, high-growth careers. BridgeYear sets itself apart from different career readiness programs in that it doesn’t promote the typical 4-year college/university route. BridgeYear provides high school students and recent high school graduates with clear pathways to local community colleges and vocational training programs. In order to start this organization, the founders had to reflect back on their years as college counselors; in doing so, they realized how the 2-year college education pathway was perceived as less prestigious than the 4-year college route. In response, BridgeYear truly seeks to encourage students to confidently pursue their goals, no matter what they might be.

By now you might be wondering, what does a Chemistry and Environmental Studies double major do at such an organization? Well first things first, BridgeYear consist of three main programs, Career Test Drives (CTDs), pathway mapping, and ongoing advising. My role at BridgeYear is closely related to the CTD’s, as well as, ongoing advising. However, my job as an intern is unlike anything I had expected it would be like.

Team building activity at Crazy Cat

Since BridgeYear is a start-up organization, there are a lot of moving parts, and I mean a lot. This translates to very different and unique work days. There’s been times during this past three weeks when I’ve spent most of the day outside of the office going to meetings with my bosses. It’s worth it to mention that getting to see how the founders of an organization present themselves and run their meetings is quite a unique experience.

Besides going to meetings and participating in team bonding activities, I am responsible for creating pre/post curriculum for the Career Test Drives. I have been tasked with finding ways of preparing students for the hands-on career-testing experience of the CTDs and ensure they learn something about themselves in the process. I am also responsible for creating user friendly college enrollment guides for the BridgeYear advisors to use when talking to their students.

In looking at what the rest of the summer will be like, I can’t say I know exactly what I will experience. A start-up is heavily reliant on adaptability and progress, so all I know is that I have to be ready for big things. After all, it’s not every day I get to hold a check for $26,000!

BridgeYear board members and interns receiving an extremely generous donation.

Allan Zelaya Mata ’19