Antonio: Portraits of the 14th Street Y


I started at the 14th Street Y at New Country Day Camp, about six summers ago. I was a sports counselor and I was right out of high school, so I was still figuring out what I wanted to do. Camp is where I met Chloe Markowitz, who was the director of After School at the time. She talked me into coming to work at After School, and that’s sort of where my path to what I’m doing now started to form.

’ve worn many hats here at the 14th Street Y, and I’ve enjoyed every one. It’s kind of nice to think back and see how I’ve gotten from point A to point B. Working with Chloe helped me see that I wanted to do social work. I’m graduating from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College in May, and I’m currently working as the Coordinator for the KOL Special Needs Program at the 14th Street Y. I actually went in to undergrad as an English major because I wanted to write books. At the time, I was working at After School and Camp, where I realized how much I love working with kids.

Working with children offers such a warm feeling–maybe it’s a little selfish on my part, just because I feel good working with them. Seeing kids grow and working with a kid who didn’t have many social skills at all, who came into the program maybe knowing a word or two, grow into this young man who talks non-stop now is such a beautiful thing to see. Just seeing the looks on parents who love coming to this program because they know it’s a safe space for them. It’s a place where they feel welcome and a place where they know their child can grow. Giving back in that way is so nice. It’s just really gratifying work.

I definitely like working with people. I couldn’t see myself in a place where I’m in a cubicle doing paper work–I like engaging with people and working with children. I’m graduating soon, so I’m trying to figure out where I see myself. I’m thinking maybe in a school, maybe doing some mental health counseling with children. There are a lot of different paths that are forming for me and I’m not sure which one to take just yet. I love working with people in the community.

I like helping kids see the potential that lies in everyone. As a child, I always wanted to be a superhero. I know I can’t run fast, you know, I’m not the Flash. I can’t fly, and I can’t save the world, but I can help save someone’s world. I can help them feel loved or help them feel a part of the community. That’s where a lot of my passion comes from in the work that I do.

You’d think, as a social worker, I’d be able to define community easily, but community looks different for everyone. I would define community as a group of people who come together to build something amazing–something that’ll last for generations to come. I’m thinking about how a community like the 14Y started as a small program, but now they have amazing programs like camp, After School, Special Needs programs, the silver sirens programs for seniors. The community keeps getting bigger and bigger, serving more people, and helping more people. Community is essentially something that grows and gives back. I find community with the parents and kids I work with in the KOL program. I find community in the staff that I meet–we go from coworkers to friends, and we get to see each other move up in the world and take different paths. I find community in the work we do and the people I interact with.

Portraits of the 14th Street Y
is a photography project by Bridget Badore that tells the stories behind the many faces of the 14th Street Y community, including members, staff, teachers, trainers, artists, caregivers, families, and local business owners. Each year, the unique stories of more than 20,000 New Yorkers is woven into the fabric that makes the 14th Street Y a Downtown home for all.

Learn more about this exciting photography series here. You can also follow along and support the Downtown Stories on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.