These days, the sounds accompanying the work of sculptor Zola Bruce ’99 are not the clink of chisel against stone or the searing of a welding flame—they’re the conversational ebbs and flows of personal connection.
Bruce—who holds a degree in social work—is helping shape the lives of adolescents in two New York City high schools. “I started off doing play therapy with younger kids, but as I began to work with older youth groups, I felt more effective. You can communicate with them in a more straightforward way,” says Bruce. “You can help mentor them through issues that they normally don’t feel comfortable talking to adults about.”
As the Teen Program director at the McBurney YMCA, Bruce develops and operates youth programs for the High School for Leader-ship and Public Service (HSLPS) and the Legacy School for Integrative Studies. Her team of teaching artists and social workers provide arts, sports, leadership and support programs, bridging a critical gap for teens in a school system short on programming funds.
“I see youth development as a type of sculpting program,” she says. “I like to form new ways of working with youth or new ways of helping them cope.” At HSLPS, for example, located just two blocks from the World Trade Center site, Bruce offers creative, social and emotional outlets for teens still struggling with the aftermath of 9/11.
This spring, Bruce traveled to Des Chappelle, Haiti, with her partner, a physician who, each year, takes a group of medical students to volunteer at the public hospital. Bruce brought donated art supplies, hoping to spark the beginnings of an art program—and the imaginations of the children at the hospital’s malnutrition clinic.