ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Students in Rochester get to put in extra time in many ways, including the time they spend with a non-profit known as Operation Go.
The group helps teens discover their passion.
“This is my own personal thing that I made for myself," said Tejon Tejada of Rochester. "It says CEO on the back because, you know, that’s me.”
For Tejada, it’s not a brag, but a mindset.
“You might be smarter than me, you might have more money than me," he said. "But at the end of the day, when I wake up tomorrow, I’m going to be better than who I am today. I’m going to learn from my experiences.”
He says his logo reflects his own experiences changing from the city school district to a suburban one.
“It was like a culture shock for me. Not only that, it was [an] economic shock too," Tejada said. "Because I come from the inner city and these kids just had a different way to them. When they would tell me about their summers, it would be filled with jet skis and boating, and I knew that as a movie life.”
Every day he strives to improve and as of April, he now sells his designs online.
“Not only is it exciting, but it’s very fulfilling," he said. "I have always been talking about supporting Superior Intellect, and people will be like, I don’t want any video work done, I don’t have a brand. So how can I support your graphic design?”
And it’s all thanks to Operation Go, an after-school career program where students can learn about everything from carpentry and sneaker design to music and video production.
“We need to make sure we’re putting it into their minds while they’re young that these are attainable careers, that these are possible for them," said Justin Ortiz, founder and CEO of Operation Go. "So they can start preparing themselves, start developing themselves, for those careers.”
Ortiz says the nonprofit is about equal opportunity.
“We’re expecting our youth to do great things without giving them the resources to do the great things," said Ortiz. "And we’re expecting them not to do the wrong thing, but we’re not giving them the direction and resources to do the right thing. So I think it’s vital to our community.”
And at the end of the 10-week program, students present their projects and a winner is selected.
Tejon won their summer 2021 program and was given a website and started with 50 free shirts.
“Operation has literally changed my life," Tejada said. "I feel like I already had the ambition behind what I wanted to do, but they gave me the tools to do it, they gave me the approach. They allowed me to meet new people.”
His other passion is videography. And though he finished the program, he still returns to help out the current class and his former teachers.
“This is a program that I feel like, if you really connect with it, you’ll never be done with it," Tejada said. "Because you see the magic behind it and you can see what it did for you, and you want to do that for other people.”
This is why he hopes others his age take advantage of the program too.
“It gives you a chance to find who you want to be, gives you a chance to find a field you want to be in for no money," he said. "And that’s really special, that’s something a lot of kids don’t get to do.”