Depending on where you’re looking, Jon D. Young ’15-’16 is likely either picking people up, or throwing things.
As the proud owner of a tandem bicycle that he acquired his sophomore year, Young, who lives in Cabot House, likes to offer fellow students rides to and from the Quad if his backseat happens to be empty.
If he’s headed Riverside on the bicycle, it’s likely that he’s on his way to the Quincy House pottery studio, of which he is one of the directors. He likes to throw pots—big ones—and to teach other students how to practice the art of ceramics.
Before we head into the pottery studio, Young invites me, like he would a Quad-bound shivering traveler, to take a ride on the back of the tandem (though if we were actually biking the streets of Cambridge, he informs me, he would insist I wear a helmet, an extra of which resides in the rear basket for such occasions).
I hop on the second seat, Young at the helm. The left pedal for his half of the tandem promptly breaks off. Unfazed, Young continues to make loops around Quincy courtyard on a bicycle with two seats and three pedals.
Inside the pottery studio, Young quickly whips together a massive pot that requires an even larger agglomeration of clay. He molds what was once a gray lump into a sleek spinning form, expertly pulling away excess strips as the pot rotates on a pedal-controlled disk—clearly, Young knows his way around wheels.
“My dad taught me how to make pottery when I was about 6 years old,” Young says. He won’t be gifting his family any pots for the holidays—their home, he says, is already filled with homemade wares.
His phone case has a smiling (or unsmiling, depending on how you look at her) image of Hello Kitty on the back. “My cousin and I started a gift war of Hello Kitty items that culminated in us going to the L.A. Museum of Hello Kitty,” says Young, referring to “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” at the Japanese American National Museum.
At Harvard, Young has been both a lightweight and heavyweight rower, a FOP leader, a member of the Harvard Outing Club, and a writer for Satire V. He has worked at Quad Bikes, in his building manager’s office, at PBHA, and is starting a call-in tutoring program for students in Boston with his cousin, also a Harvard senior. Before the dessert shop closed, he was one of Yogurtland’s biggest fans. He has taken time off to live in Japan, as well as to drive for Uber and work at a pottery studio in Los Angeles, where his family recently moved from his hometown of St. Louis, Mo.
“If you want to find friends that make you happy, you need to be constantly exploring and make an effort, which is more easy if you’re vulnerable,” says Young, who cites his diverse experiences and interests as his personal effort to explore what makes him happy. “Vulnerability is huge if you want to build communities.”
Young believes that he became much more confident in opening up to strangers, and to what he doesn’t know, as an Uber driver. “Telling strangers your story, asking them theirs, and having conflicts when you don’t agree with them...is really difficult for people to do,” he says. He says that groups like FOP encourage Harvard students, who often thrive on the barriers created by exclusive social organizations, to open themselves up to things and people they don’t yet know.
“I don’t get why people wait to hug people they don’t know,” muses Young. “I want to live my life hugging people I don’t know.”