Jessy Jo Gomez, photo courtesy of Julie Hassett-Sutton/Frantic Studio via Global Kids
I grew up in Harlem with parents who were not parentally abled. I took care of myself, and them, and my siblings. Being in the house was always hectic.
One day in high school, somebody from Global Kids came to recruit people for a program called the Virtual Video Project. He said we could get a stipend, and we could work in the virtual world. I applied for it right away. I really liked technology and video games. There wasn't really a program at my school that had to do with games. If there was, it was very male heavy.
In the Virtual Video Project, at first I was really shy. Everybody came from schools in the other boroughs and I was from Manhattan. But I was a little more versed in computers, so I ended up helping other students. That's when I started to gain my confidence. I started to think like a leader when I started to show people how to do things.
The video games we designed always involved social justice issues. We created a machinima called Discovered and it was about a girl in Mexico being trafficked to the US. I played the voice of the main character named Thalia who gets trafficked. We presented it at Emoti-con!, an event where youth can showcase their game projects. It's on YouTube and we had many page views.
There's a program at Global Kids called Playing for Keeps. It was awesome, awesome, awesome, because we got to meet game designers, interview them and ask them, "How did you become a game designer?"
I did a lot of video game design work at Global Kids, but then I got interested in other programs there. For instance, I participated in the Global Kids Annual Youth Conference. After going to one conference, I got invited to work on it the next year. I created a workshop and I also emceed the event. The topic of that conference was children's rights. So, we made a skit about children's rights and for a prop we made a box of cereal called "Rights Crispies." We talked about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Each workshop addressed a different article or different issue. The workshop I made was an overview of the whole CRC.
In your senior year at Global Kids, they help you apply to college. They have workshops that direct you toward scholarships. I had letters of recommendation from some Global Kids staff members, and they helped look over my essays. I won a full scholarship to Parsons through a scholarship called QuestBridge.
The way Global Kids has still influenced me today is I try to bring game design to youth as much as possible. I work with a company called Win to Learn, Inc. where we teach kids game design and programming. It's really important to us for kids to have games as a part of their curriculum.
Even before going to Global Kids I knew I wanted to be a game designer. I would tell people that I wanted to make games to make people happy, but I didn't know what that necessarily meant. When I got to Global Kids, I understood that I wanted to help people. That's a good way of making them happy.
-- Jessy Jo Gomez
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Global Kids (GK) in conjunction with Global Kids' 25th anniversary. These stories were crafted from extensive interviews with featured GK alumni. Read all of the posts in the series here. Learn more about Global Kids here.