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NO CAP, a new project for Black and LatinX youth, is the culmination of a long dream

Students of the NO CAP program get to work creating marketing content for their upcoming projects
Ana Gil
Ana Gil Studios
Students of the NO CAP program get to work creating marketing content for their upcoming projects

This profile is part of a longer interview on the upcoming episode of WAER's podcast Syracuse Speaks, on Black History Month.

Photographer and marketing specialist ana gil was long used to being the only woman – and only person of color – in a tech workplace. Today, she runs ana gil studios, also an industry where opportunities for women, especially women of color, are limited.

She's striving to change that, however, with a new project called NO CAP — Nurturing Opportunities for Creativity and Production — through which she is teaching her wide range of skills to a group of Black and LatinX youth in Syracuse.
Specifically, eight first-year and sophomore high school students, the first cohort of her program, which launched in early February. They arrived in the classroom of the Syracuse Boys and Girls Club that is partnering with gil on NO CAP, and immediately fielded a ton a lot of questions about their hobbies and passions. All aimed at helping them shape two projects that the teens will develop over the 12-week program, which meets once a week.

"Half of them were in sports and dancing, so we call [one project] Sports and Entertainment," said gil. "And the other team is going to be Clothing and Arts, and talking about clothing and how it influences you."

Within each team of four, the roles are divided among a marketing developer, graphic designer, technical producer and host. Over the course of three months, each team will create video content and learn to 'market' their interests, as if they were working for a company, entrepreneur or nonprofit; the range of clients that gil herself has.

Born in the Dominican Republic, gil came to the Syracuse area by way of the Bronx, more than a decade ago, for college. She says she’s proud that NO CAP joins a growing number of programs "raising awareness and bringing Black and brown kids, and exposing them to different technologies in different worlds and different environments for them to see what's out there...and be able to confidently do it."
NO CAP came to life thanks to a grant from the Black Equity & Excellence Fund from the Central New York Community Foundation, which supports historically under-invested, Black-led projects across the region.

The goal of the grant is to foster social change and combat anti-Black racism, both of which are vital, says gil, especially in fields that continue to exclude so many people, from a young age, because of their race – and gender. Which is what NO CAP aims to reverse.

"We have to prove it, [but] as soon as we show our knowledge, the respect comes. And this is why we're empowering these kids with knowledge." said gil. "Whether they stay in a tech career or not."

NO CAP was more than a decade in the making.

"I started talking about it in 2012. I knew I wanted to do it, but I also needed to make money. And I didn't know how to approach any of this until my current fiancée Fuljens Henry came into my life, and then I started sharing all my dreams and goals," said Gil.

Henry comes from a nonprofit background, and told her that projects don't have to be non-profits. They can partner with an organization as a fiscal sponsor that shares the project's goals.

NO CAP's fiscal sponsor is the Boys and Girls Club on Fayette Street, which received the funding from the Community Foundation and subcontract ana gil studios to facilitate the program.

From the start, her students were hungry to learn, says gil. In the very first class, the teenagers also bombarded her with questions, about equipment and lighting, and especially photography; gil says, they couldn’t wait to get to work.

Natasha Senjanovic teaches radio broadcasting at the Newhouse School while overseeing student journalists at WAER and creating original reporting for the station. She can also be heard hosting All Things Considered some weekday afternoons.