The Junior Docent Program Celebrates Its 25th Year

This year, the HRM is proud to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Junior Docent Program, an award-winning teen leadership program, and to applaud the exceptional Yonkers high school students who are an integral part of the Museum.

In the past year alone, Junior Docents have had the opportunity to meet and work with Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General; Dr. Gretchen Sorin, author of Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights; and Christopher A. Johnson, Westchester County Legislator for District 16, to name a few. Junior Docents joined the Virtual Annual Art College Night hosted by the Whitney Museum in a two-part series. They met with peers at organizations like the Claremont Museum of Art’s Project ARTstART and students at the Instituto Euroamericano in Oaxaca, Mexico.

They have also helped to make HRM festivals such as Lunar New Year celebration and Dia de Muertos successful and participated in City and County celebrations such as Yonkers Riverfest and Yonkers Pride. And, they have given back to their community by organizing and carrying out mindful initiatives like “Teens for Jeans,” a nationwide program that collects clothing for local homeless youth, as well as upcycling workshops, exploring ways to reuse everyday recyclables to make useful items.

Despite recent challenges resulting from the pandemic, the Junior Docents have continued to meet regularly, fostering positive behaviors in both a virtual environment and a safe onsite space. Bringing their skills and enthusiasm to the digital realm, they designed and presented online bilingual art and storytime programs for families; researched and led an online talk on colorism, a topic that matters deeply to them and their peers throughout our country; and planned and presented Virtual Teen Night, a celebration for teens, by teens, in English and Spanish that attracted high school students from all over Westchester County, Rockland County, New York City—and for the first time, Mexico and France! Navaiya Williams, Class of 2021 and Co-Chair of the Junior Docent Advisory Board, says, “The Junior Docent Program has made me feel productive at times when I feel very helpless and allows me to continue to build my leadership skills under trying times.”

The teens’ presence and contributions to the HRM help to make our institution a more dynamic, inclusive space. Theirs is a story of burgeoning leadership and resilience, optimism and generosity of spirit. In these times of social distancing, they serve as enthusiastic ambassadors to visitors at the Museum and at virtual programs. In the past few months alone, they have made meaningful connections with teens across the country and the world. As their reach continues to expand, they bring us all closer together.

“The Hudson River Museum Junior Docent Program has been an extraordinary program for my two daughters. The Museum [. . .] teaches my children the social skills that many other work environments don’t offer! Through giving tours, leading the meetings, visiting different colleges/museums, and working with families on the weekends, I noticed how my daughters’ confidence and leadership skills progressively grew. I encourage every family in the area to look into this program and give this same opportunity to your [children].”

—Graciela Leite, Parent of Junior Docents Kathleen Leite (Class of 2019) and Nickole Leite (Class of 2022)

2020 graduates of our Program have gone on to colleges and universities such as Adelphi, Binghamton, Cornell, CCNY Sophie Davis Program, University at Buffalo, SUNY New Paltz, Lehigh, SUNY Purchase, Stony Brook, Pace, Skidmore, and St. Lawrence, garnering more than $940,000 in scholarships. We are eagerly awaiting college acceptances for the Class of 2021! Navaiya Williams, a senior at Yonkers Middle High School, was recently accepted to Brown University early decision with a scholarship from Questbridge. We are so proud of all of our Junior Docents, especially during this challenging year. They constantly inspire us with their infectious enthusiasm, joy, and hope, and their belief in a future of limitless possibilities.