Cycling the Crossroads of the World with Cycle for Survival

Clockwise from top left: Cycle for Survival takes over Times Square; the author and intern Tatiana Cadet on their bikes; a Cycle for Survival bike; Cadet challenges herself to a great workout.

Times Square – the heavily nicknamed Crossroads of the World, Center of the Universe, or Heart of the World (among others) – draws an estimated 50 million annual visitors; more than 300,000 pedestrians pass through daily. It is also home to a pair of towers where Viacom keeps offices.

This bustling pedestrian and entertainment center provides the perfect backdrop for an annual Times Square Takeover by Cycle for Survival, the movement to beat rare cancers that is led by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Earlier this year, I joined the battle alongside 60 employees across 23 departments in Viacom’s New York, Hollywood, and Paramount Pictures offices by participating in Cycle for Survival’s 11th year of rides. The energy was incredible, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to represent Team Viacom by participating in this year’s Times Square Takeover.

In late September, corporate communications intern Tatiana Cadet and I took to bikes smack in the heart of Times Square for an hour-long ride. We were there to support the cause and raise awareness and excitement among employees for our larger company-sponsored Cycle for Survival ride next spring. Jubilation, motivation, hope, and friendship filled the air.

Read Tatiana’s description of the event:

“It was the end of September, it felt like summer, and I was in the middle of Time Square on an exercise bike. My heart was racing, my legs were moving, and the sun was beaming on my face. I could feel the sweat dripping down, but the woman on stage motioning us to crank it up and keep pushing harder for the people that can no longer push kept me pedaling. It was my first time participating in Cycle for Survival, and I was amazed.

“At first, I was nervous because I heard about friends talking about extreme Soul Cycling classes that left them drained, but this was nothing like that. Cycling in the middle of New York City was enough to make it different, but the trainers from Equinox who led us on our cycling journey were great motivators. They reminded us that we weren’t just cycling to get some exercise for the day, but to be a part of a great cause.

“It felt good to be surrounded by so many people that care about making a difference. Between high-fiving my cycling neighbors and riding to positive music and motivating trainers, I left the event feeling really good and proud to be a part of Team Viacom, which shows a dedication to serving diverse communities and staying involved.”

Relive the experience as it appeared on @Viacom’s Instagram Story:

2017 Nickterns Spruce Up California Boys & Girls Club

The summer 2017 Nicktern class united to create a mural at the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley. The mural, which is one of their largest to date, covers more than 300 square feet and employs a number of Boys & Girls Club themes. The mural was designed by Colton Davis, Gabrielle Dolbey, Tom Fields, Courtney Lovett and Alyson Wong.

Creating Reel, Impactful Films with Viacom and Reel Works

Any professional filmmaker will tell you that creating original films is a challenging process that requires great effort and skill. One may assume, therefore, that young high school filmmakers would find it an enormous challenge to produce quality, original work. However, walking into Reel Works’ Reel Impact event at Viacom’s 1515 Broadway headquarters two weeks ago, audience members would never have guessed that the nine students presenting their original work were relatively new to the world of film.

Reel Works is a New York City based organization that immerses young people in filmmaking programs free of charge. In the Reel Impact program – which was recently launched through a partnership with Reel Works and Viacom – students create original films examining social issues of their choosing. A heavy emphasis is also placed on marketing and finding a target audience for the student films.  Participants are given the opportunity to conduct research through focus groups and interviews to determine which audience facets best fit the social topics of their choosing. A mentor guides students through the filmmaking and post-production processes, covering everything from concept through promoting their films via social media.

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Get Schooled and DJ Khaled celebrate ‘Major Keys’ Success on Get Schooled’s Annual Yearbook Day

It was a digital yearbook thrust six stories over Times Square, with 400 high school students from 38 states grinning from the side of Viacom’s world headquarters. They had good reason to smile. These self-assigned “change makers” were about to be acknowledged by DJ Khaled for their commitment to improving their schools and communities.

Khaled Key Day – as the whole activation was dubbed – was part of Get Schooled’s Yearbook Day. In particular, they acknowledged the impact of the Shorty Award-winning Major Keys campaign and honored Khaled’s role in helping it to flourish. The program – which challenges students to master seven “Major Keys,” or focus areas via Get Schooled’s gamified online interface – has been immensely successful, reaching more than 250 million people in just the past year.

While the digital yearbook photos flashed on the billboard outside, several New York City area high school students piled into Viacom’s studio inside to watch a catered question-and answer session between Khaled and radio host Sway Calloway. The students waved their “Grateful Khaled Keys” in the air and learned a bit more about the program’s Keys to Success.

“I’ve never really experienced anything like this before,” one student told Complex. “Everyone’s really excited and hyped up, and I’m excited to be here. It showed me that you can be who you are, and I’ve always struggled with that, so learning to be myself has gotten me to where I want to be when I graduate.”

Students also shared their aspirations and accomplishments with Khaled. “I am grateful for the positive impact we have had on so many young people and even more grateful for their talent and leadership,” said Khaled. “I am excited to work with Get Schooled to inspire and engage even more young people next year.”

#GRATEFUL #JUNE23RD 🔑 bless up @getschooled

A post shared by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled) on

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Join Paramount and Al Gore in Pledging to #BEINCONVENIENT

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

On June 1, the day that President Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the 195-nation Paris climate agreement, Paramount confirmed that Al Gore would edit his forthcoming Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, to include the executive turnabout.

The last-minute changes to the Jon Shenk- and Bonni Cohen-directed film should only inject more poignancy and relevance into a film that earned standing ovations and critical praise when it opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival, on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.

In both a nod to Gore’s courage and an emphatic statement of its own commitment to environmental causes, the studio has launched a Pledge to #BEINCONVENIENT, a social activation where concerned citizens can articulate their solidarity with the movement to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Those who take the pledge can record a video explaining their passions for the environment:

A companion site offers resources to help pledgees choose renewable energy and communicate their priorities to others.

The Pledge follows Paramount’s longstanding commitment to environmental action, a philosophy that permeates the organization, from employee events organized by the studio’s Green Team to helping fund the Green Production Guide for making sustainable Hollywood films.

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Viacom Once Again Joins Everytown for Gun Safety to Wear Orange and Fight Violence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

There’s a reason that hunters, bicycle messengers, construction workers, joggers and anyone else with a compelling reason to stand out drape themselves in orange: it works. After all, it is hard to be mistaken for a deer when you are wearing a blaze-orange insulated onsie in a snow-filled forest.

Yet, safety orange is not a widespread part of the everyday American wardrobe, because why should it be? Most Americans are not traipsing through the forest on a deer hunt or delivering pizzas via bicycle on a daily basis.

And yet, 93 people die, on average, every day from gun violence. Seven of them are children or teens. Hundreds more are injured. Every. Single. Day. With 12,000 annual gun murders, America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times greater than the average of other developed nations.

Source: Everytown for Gun Safety

It is an ongoing crisis in plain sight. And it often seems as though it is being widely ignored by lawmakers and others. On June 2, Viacom once again teamed up with Everytown for Gun Safety for Wear Orange, a statement initiative declaring that change is needed. Their weapon was one that cannot be ignored: orange clothing.

Viacom unleashed the power of multiple brands to support the initiative across a variety of on-air and outdoor platforms. The company’s headquarters, a tower heaving from the center of Times Square, served as the epicenter of this support, with the building lit orange along the New York City skyline and this public service announcement – created in conjunction with Everytown and HUGE – playing on the enormous video screens hanging off the building’s eastern facade:

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MyViacommunity Stories: Fostering Hope, By Design

We caught up with Katie Dominguez, senior art director at TV Land, to talk about her volunteer work through Viacom’s pro-social branch, Viacommunity.

Eli Musser: How do you volunteer? What are you involved with?

Katie Dominguez: I’ve volunteered for a few different organizations through Viacom’s skills-based Talent for Good program, donating design and branding services. One organization is Graham Windham, a foster care agency in New York City that also offers schooling, health care centers and after-school programs. Another organization is called Integrate, and they provide services for those with autism who have gone to college and can’t land jobs. They also educate companies about autism and offer recruitment to help candidates with autism.

EM: How do you feel when you’re volunteering?

KD: I take it as a serious job. I always give 100 percent when I’m doing my work, so when I’m volunteering, even though I’m not getting paid for it, I’m definitely trying to do the best job I possibly can. At the end of the day, I’m just glad that I can help give my services to something that’s worthwhile.

EM: How do you feel about Viacommunity’s presence at Viacom?

KD: I think it’s great. I’ve been taking full advantage of it. Being able to share your skill sets is really nice. I think it’s great that Viacom has this opportunity for people to get out there and give back. I hope a lot of people do it and continue to do it. I think it makes Viacom a better company because it enriches their talent and provides a great service.

Get Schooled and the Chainsmokers Celebrate Tulsa School’s Soaring Graduation Rates

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fresh off topping a billion and a half YouTube views of their smash hit Closer, the Chainsmokers used their ever-growing profile to acknowledge something special happening in Tulsa: soaring graduation and college acceptance rates at Webster High School.

In a partnership with Get Schooled, an organization founded through a partnership between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the duo crashed senior day at the Oklahoma high school, where 90 percent of a diverse student body is eligible for free or reduced lunch. After dazzling students at an assembly, the band gave every member of the school’s senior class a ticket to their concert that night at Tulsa’s BOK Center.

“We wanted to inspire them to go off and do an art, or whatever it is after this, and if we can be a part of it, that’s great,” the Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggert told Marty Kasper of News on 6, a local television news show, as he stood alongside bandmate Alex Paul following the assembly.

The Chainsmokers’ Andrew Taggert and Alex Paul address students at Webster High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Tulsa Public Schools.

Over the course of an ongoing four-year partnership with Diplomas Now, a national organization dedicated to improving retention and graduation rates, Webster’s graduation rate has jumped to over 75 percent from just over 50 percent, while the number of college-bound seniors has risen by 33 percent.

“The Webster High School community, in partnership with Diplomas Now, united the school around a common goal:  improved graduation,” said Get Schooled Executive Director Marie Groark. “Incredibly, they engaged every teacher and student in this work and in doing so have demonstrated to the nation what is possible when schools and partners work together. We are excited to recognize their hard work and success.”

The students seemed thrilled with the encounter. “I’m really excited,” Darius Arney told News on 6’s Kasper. “I can’t believe they’re actually here.” Check out the station’s full report from the school:

NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |

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Logo’s Global Ally Examines the Less Sunny Side of Jamaica

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“Growing up, my mother was always saying that [if] any of her child become gay or lesbian, she would take them out personally,” says the unidentified man in the red tank top, his head sliced from the camera shot. “Meaning she would kill us herself.”

Facing these sorts of attitudes and resorting to clandestine behavior are the reality for the LGBT community in Jamaica, where same-sex relations are scorned by an enormous chunk of the population: more than 80 percent, according to a new video from Logo’s Global Ally campaign and the Where Love Is Illegal organization, believe that homosexuality is immoral. And while homosexuality is not illegal, “acts of gross indecency” – intimate relations between members of the same sex – are.

The video, This is Who I Am: LGBTQ Stories of Survival, is the latest in Global Ally’s year-long storytelling project that launched last year on The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biophobia to unite victims, activists and supporters of LGBT rights around the world.

The Jamaica that unfolds on the video is a brutal realm where LGBT individuals often live in constant fear of violence, exiled from their families, unemployed and uneducated because they are forever shunning public places.

In an atmosphere so tainted, why, then, would anyone come out at all?

“Our personal stories, which display our humanity, are very important, because it’s not real to Jamaican people unless they know somebody who’s part of the community,” says one man, echoing Logo’s position that increased visibility of LGBT individuals – whether in one’s personal life or the media – is the best way to diffuse homophobia.

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Helping Dreamers Dream Bigger at Viacom HQ

Viacommunity and the “I Have a Dream” Foundation joined forces recently at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters for a speed mentoring event, an invigorating and inspirational experience for a group of under-served students seeking career guidance.

Focusing on goals, Viacom employees from across the Sales, Production, Marketing and Graphic Design departments, among others, delivered career advice to college students affiliated with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, who are otherwise known as Dreamers.

Both the students and Viacom employees came equipped with positive spirit and energy. During several timed sessions, students rotated among tables organized by Viacom’s departments. Two employees were stationed at each table facing one Dreamer, providing an intimate setting that provoked thoughtful questions about job-search processes and career tracks. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour event, the room buzzed with motivational chatter, as conversations trickled on long after each timer expired. Viacom’s employees were eager to share personal anecdotes to show Dreamers that they too can pursue careers in the entertainment field and the students, in turn, left our offices energized and inspired.

i-have-a-dream-event

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