Recently, I got to co-lead a group of Creative Arts Digital Media Academy (CADMA) students on a tour of Amazon’s South Lake Union neighborhood. From the comfy furniture in Van Vorst, to the Free Book Room in Brazil, to the selfie-stick they received as swag, these students were wowed again and again by Amazon.
This 2-hour visit, however, wasn’t just a fun field trip for these students – it was a game-changer.
CADMA is a workforce and youth skills building program that teaches students about digital media through exposure to current technology, and encourages students to use social media for social change. These students came to CADMA through the Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP), which means they are getting paid, and treat this experience like a job.
Many of these students are from Rainier Valley, a neighborhood plagued by domestic violence, drugs, gangs, and extreme poverty. I am familiar with the challenges and the invisible ceiling these students face as I spent part of my own childhood living in Rainier Valley.
For these high schoolers, this tour of Amazon offered a glimpse into a lifestyle they never dreamed possible. This is important because I believe every single young person deserves that glimpse of what’s possible.
At the beginning of the tour, we asked the students about their interests. “Math, science, writing, and video games” were just a few of their responses. We were pleased to tell each of them that all of these interests and skillsets could turn into unique and exciting careers at Amazon.
The CADMA students focus on three core principles: mutual respect, teamwork, and high achievement. At Amazon, they saw each of these principles and more come to life. By the end of the tour, after meeting many four-legged Amazonians and signing their names on multiple elevator white-boards, the students said they liked how Amazon felt like a diverse community, and that it looked more like a pretty park than a corporate office. They thought Amazon was awesome. But, most importantly, they could see themselves working here – something they never could have pictured before this tour.
Now, it’s up to us, as proud employees, to continue to make sure as many young people as possible get that same glimpse – that opportunity – to see themselves at Amazon.