By Angie B., Alexandra House Youth Services Advocate
The Youth Services team ended its summer by hosting the Youth Leadership Institute in August. Having run the program last year, I was very excited to see the project this year’s cohort would create. We started planning for the institute in May, and one of our tasks was to find a location to host the YLI. Noah was able to create a relationship and partnership with the YMCA in Andover. We even provided students with a free daily pass to use their facility after participating in our program. On the last day, our students hit the YMCA pools, which was a great way to end the institute. They gave us a beautiful space to use that included a sink and cabinets to store our many materials. We really had everything we needed, and we hope to continue this partnership in the future.
In the first week, our students bonded over the activities we planned. We got to watch their leadership and teamwork skills slowly creep through as they got more comfortable with each other. Although the first week is very content-heavy, they always found a way to brighten up the room. Did I mention the food? We had many great lunch options, and we had students taking home leftovers to their families every day. Some of our meals included an Acapulco taco bar, Pizza ranch, Davannis, a baked potato bar, and various barbecue foods – perfect for the summer! Don’t worry, there was plenty of fruit and veggies (and treats) to balance everything out!
In the second week, our students worked on designing their project. They created a 12-part Podcast Series titled, “In Their Shoes”. My personal favorite part of their podcast was their tagline – “Turn to your neighbor and say, ‘Give me your shoes!’” – They weren’t actually trading shoes with each other, but this phrase reflects their work in empathizing with survivors and understanding that each person has their own journey. Their content focused on interviews of Alexandra House staff and a debrief after the interview session. Each student picked a topic to focus on and created a set of questions to ask the interviewees. They put a lot of work into their project, and we are so proud of everything they accomplished together. I wanted to give a quick shoutout to Amanda, Heidi, Jen L, and Dawn for being a part of this project, our students learned so much from all of you, and you all impacted each student deeply. If you’d like to listen to their podcast, you can find it here!
This is only my second year hosting the YLI institute, and it has been wonderful to work with the youth in the community in a different way than how we usually work with students. Alexandra House is very lucky to have so many bright, young minds and strong leaders in our community. The 2022 Youth Leadership participants deserve their flowers for this one!