MyViacommunity Stories: Opening Doors for Others

We sat down with Jason Williams, vice president of Global Consumer Products at Nickelodeon, to discuss Viacom’s UP Mentoringthe program he started through Viacommunity.

Q: Talk a little bit about your mentoring program.

A: UP Mentoring started in New York with 60 volunteers from Viacom in 2014, with a business-oriented program. That first year we focused on 20 students, and after three years, we’ve had over 200 Viacom employee volunteers and upwards of a hundred students. We’ve expanded the Viacom UP Mentoring program to include a creative component called UP Creative. There’s a great team I’ve assembled across the entire company, and they help guide the decision-making for all of this, and maintain the partnerships and the momentum for the program.

Q: What first drove you to volunteer?

A: When I came to Viacom, I looked to see what kind of mentoring programs there were at the company. And I wanted to find a way that I could create a space for students –young, aspiring students who wanted to get into the media and entertainment industry—to break the door down and get exposure.

Q: What would you tell people who are interested in volunteering?

A: Always think about how when you open the door, that it’s always important that you hold the door open to allow the right person to come in behind you. I would tell people who volunteer to continue to hold that door open for others, and to give of yourself. We really encourage everyone to drop what they’re doing and go out into the community. It shows that at the core of Viacom, being at the cusp of social issues is in our DNA. It’s unlike any other media company out there, because of our roots.

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.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish Signs Open Letter From Leaders of American Industry Defending Dreamers

In 2012, the Obama administration passed a new policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA, sometimes called the “Dreamers” program, protects eligible young immigrants from being deported. The “Dreamers” are kids who emigrated to the U.S. with their parents. Many moved here as young children or infants, and some did not even know they were not Americans until later in life.

DACA opened the door for these kids to legally apply for their first job, to get their driver’s license, attend college and ultimately join the workforce as adults, contributing to the American economy.

Now, there is a movement in Washington to end this policy. If this happens, the lives of nearly 800,000 young Americans will be irrevocably altered. By March, they’ll be at risk of being forced to leave everything behind and move back to their native country—which many of these kids have no memory of.

On August 31, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish joined President Barack Obama, dozens of university presidents, and a multitude of CEOs from major American tech and media companies in signing an open letter to the government leaders expressing their concerns about the devastating effects changing the immigration policy would have on the Dreamers living productive and happy lives in America, as well as the severe consequences it would have for the economy.

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Helping Immigration, Child Services, Hunger and Homelessness – Viacom, Catchafire Celebrate another Successful Year Collaborating

This spring, Viacom teams collaborated with nonprofit organizations from across the country and donated their time and skills through Talent for Good, Viacom’s skills-based volunteering program. These efforts culminated on July 10 when Viacom and Catchafire welcomed members from these four amazing nonprofits alongside the employees who volunteer with them in a celebration at Viacom’s New York headquarters.

This event, organized and hosted by Viacommunity, united everyone to share their experiences and celebrate their achievements. Adam Robinson, director of Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked the event off with a toast.

“Talent for Good gives our employees the opportunity to build and sharpen their skill-sets, and give back to the community in a much needed and impactful way,” Robinson said.

Adam Robinson, director of Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked off a Talent for Good partner event with a toast.

The first group to speak at the luncheon was a team of Viacom employees discussing how they banded together to create a pitch deck for L.A. based homeless youth shelter My Friend’s Place. As a native New Yorker, I felt a personal connection to this particular Talent for Good project. Manhattan, much like other large metropolitan areas, is riddled with homelessness. I see sleeping bags filled with tired bodies and men holding out cups filled with coins every day on my way to work in Times Square.

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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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You’ll Never Have to Walk Alone: Viacom Unites With 20,000 New Yorkers for AIDS Prevention and Awareness

Sunday, May 21 was a pleasant spring morning in Manhattan’s Central Park, and Team Viacom couldn’t have asked for a better day to unite and support the 32nd Annual AIDS Walk New York.

Stationed among other top corporate walk sponsors in the so-called “gold section,” team members soaked in the warm air, secured their fundraising rewards, and chewed on their Così squagels. After a team photo, Viacom joined thousands of other jubilant walkers in a 10-kilometer march through the 843-acre park.

Team Viacom at the 2017 AIDS Walk in New York. Photo courtesy of Viacom.

AIDS Walk New York is the largest single-day AIDS fundraising event in the world. In its more than 30 years, the event has raised more than $150 million to combat HIV and AIDS (more than $3.7 million in 2017 alone). The funds raised at the event are a vital lifeline sustaining the prevention, care, and advocacy programs that the GMHC organization provides for the thousands of men, women and families affected by the diseases in the tri-state area. The proceeds also benefit dozens of other HIV/AIDS service organizations that participate as teams and raise funds through the organization’s community partnership program.

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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.