Named "New York's Wackiest Tour Guides" by the Travel Channel!

The Levys’ Unique New Interns!

Over the past two weeks at the Levys’ Unique New York! we’ve embarked on a daunting never-tried-before task – not World Domination, that comes with every brainstorm. Why, INTERNS! What do interns do at a tour company? To be perfectly honest, we weren’t quite sure. After some brainstorming, we worked on a two-part plan.

1. Teaching the interns how to make a professional business call, by cold-calling hotel concierges and entering info into a Concierge Spreadsheet.

2. To educate and train the interns to become tour guides in the near future!

John White taking a study break

The intern project wasn’t our idea – its a two-year old program at The Academy for Young Writers (AFYW) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn where I’ve been working as a substitute teacher for the past four months. I spoke with Courtney Winkfield, the principal at AFYW a little about the school and the intern project. She told me,

“The mission of Young Writers is to teach students to read, write and to think critically. To give them the skills not only to get into college, but to stay there and thrive. Teaching students to memorize and regurgitate  facts may help them pass the standardized tests, but critical thinking skills are what they need to survive in the world past schooling.”

AFYW has only been around for five years now, so the current graduating class is only the second in the school’s history. Some of the students have already passed their Regents exams, and therefore needed some creative occupation of time. Ergo, interning! Aaden Stern, the dean at AFYW introduced me to one of the star pupils of the graduating class of 2011 – Aliou Diallo – whom Aaden described as “really smart, high energy.” And then, after a pause, “maybe too smart and high energy for his own good.” Over six feet tall with a puffy fauxhawk atop his head, Aliou couldn’t wait to learn about the world of the NYC tourism.

But one day, while substituting, I also had the opportunity to meet Mr. John White: A soft spoken, strikingly intelligent (and also ridicuously tall) senior who asked some of the most intriguing questions of a potential tour-guide-to-be. “I’m curious as to how New York City developed into what it is today… why are the boroughs shaped the way they are. Why is Queens called “Queens” why is Manhattan where all the rich people live?” A thirsty mind that has, since the start of our internship soaked up as much NYC history as he can get his hands on. But enough about the project from my point of view, let’s see what Aliou has to say about his two weeks here:

Aliou Diallo, cold-calling NYC hotels. Notice the jacket.

“When I first started the internship I was very excited. When I arrived at the office I was surprised at how awesome it was. It reminded me of a house. (Because it is.) My supervisor Matt Levy introduced himself and I was immediately drawn to his mustache. He told me that I would be googling classy hotels so that we could try to connect their tours to the hotels’ clients. I had no problem using my computer skills to look up hotels and then enter their info onto a spreadsheet. Then Mark Levy said it was time for COLD CALLS…

“I had no idea what a cold call was but after he said that I never took my coat off again. Mr Levy told me that I would be calling all the hotels I found online, to get specific concierge contacts. With a few practice runs I started cold calling. I spoke more gibberish than ever before but I kept trying and trying and now I’m a NATURAL. After my cold calls, John White and I switched jobs. He was researching New York history. I hate studying and researching and anything dealing with reading but this was different. I learned so much stuff I felt like I could take a group of people on a tour of maybe one block.

To sum up this essay, my experience working with the Levy’s was very UNIQUE. It gave me a chance to feel how tour guides learn things. But two weeks was too short. I need some more time before I become a tour guide. But I think its time I became a Levy. How does Aliou Levy sound to you?”

Doesn’t sound that bad, Aliou! Now, I would have John hop on and give his insight into the internship, but he’s too busy studying NYC History in our kitchen! A natural study, and a very bright young man, I see tour guiding in his near future… as a summer job, of course! Both these young men are off to college!

John, Matt, Gideon and Aliou and the Table of Knowledge

John and Aliou most definitely earned their intern credits here at LUNY! So what are we going to do to celebrate their final day here? Order pizza and watch Gangs of New York!

By Gideon Levy, Aliou Dialo and John White

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