Students tackle major social issues via Youth Leadership Greensboro
The Greensboro Historical Museum recently hosted the Youth Leadership Greensboro end of the year reports and graduation program.
For more than 40 years, YLG has offered high school students across Greensboro a similar experience to the adult version of “Leadership Greensboro” through the Chamber of Commerce.
“What we look for in our applications are students who want to learn more about the Greensboro area,” said Walton Chamblee, co-chair of YLG. “Students who acknowledge their faults and want to exercise personal growth, students who are open minded and want to make an impact, students willing to make a commitment.” At the Greensboro Historical Museum, the students presented group service projects. The projects focused on topics such as education, environment, health, homelessness, and poverty.
Omar Obregon-Cuebas, a Grimsley High School student, worked on the topic of environment. His group volunteered at the Earth Day celebration hosted by the Kathleen Clay Edwards Library.
“We have forgotten that we are tenants on this planet and that we owe to Mother Nature what is due,” said Obregon-Cuebas. “I want to stress that it’s important to educate people about the environment and how our actions affect the environment and how everything has a consequence and sometimes those consequences can last over several generations.”
Obregon-Cuebas noted that the environment fit within the theme of social issues, affecting people of color in his community. Through his lived experiences and research, he concluded that minorities suffer especially from environmental abuse. For example, many factories are built in poor neighborhoods. Conor Fitzpatrick and other students from Page High School worked on the topic of health and decided to focus on teen pregnancy. His group tackled the issue by working with the nonprofit organization, SHIFT (Sexual Health Initiatives for Teenagers) NC.
“We met with them and coordinated personal interviews to help them figure out ways to communicate with teenagers to promote a decrease in teen pregnancy rates,” said Fitzpatrick.
Tejas Santanam, an Early College at Guilford student, and his group focused on homelessness.
“After researching the issue we decided to focus on youth homelessness because that’s something we can relate to, people just like us experiencing homelessness,” said Santanam. “Homelessness contributes to a lot of other problems because without a stable foundation and a place to stay, they are not able to rehabilitate and achieve what they want to achieve. So my group and I decided to team up with Youth Focus Incorporated, which is a local organization which works to provide resources to help the youth in their care, and to help them achieve a better status.”
Most students said a favorite part of their time with YLG was the day sessions. Along with their independent field world, students of YLG took part in 5 daylong sessions exploring a wide variety of issues, including diversity/tolerance, politics/media, law/justice, serving society, and environment/economy. The sessions were led and planned by a team of peers who have graduated from the program before.
Day session chair Avery Wilson worked with the theme of diversity and tolerance. On her day session, her group toured the Christ United Methodist Church, and visited the Interactive Resource Center, as well as Temple Emmanuel.
Chandler Simpson’s theme was politics and media. Her day session consisted of visiting WFMY News 2, speaking with Jeff Sykes from YES! Weekly, hosting a visit from Mayor Nancy Vaughan and visiting NC A&T State University to talk to the department chair of the school of journalism.
Following the presentations, students received awards in recognition for their work.
The Best Day Session Award was given to Cassey Catherine whose theme was serving society. She had set up a day for students to visit the Greensboro Urban Ministry where they toured the dorms of the people who lived in the shelter. They also went to Backpack Beginnings where they sorted cans and food for schools and organized bag lunches.
Santanam was received the Leadership award for leading by example, raising thought provoking ideas and demonstrating a positive influence on the program. He was also chosen to be a part of next year’s board. Obregon-Cuebas noted that his work with YLG inspired him to start a club for students of color. Others hope to use what they learned to inspire residents to improve Greensboro.
Assistant Director of Youth Development Anna Hoy came into her position in August 2015. Responsible for coordinating this year’s program, she took a lot of pride in the youth’s success.
“I’m most proud when my teens hold difficult conversations with leaders in the community â€“ more than just ‘Hi, how are you?'” said Hoy. “For example, they ask powerful questions about hiring practices of minorities in media or implications of the school to prison pipeline.”
A letter from one of YLG’s students reads: “Thank you so much for the life changing experience of YLG. Throughout this year, I learned many things about my community during the day sessions. I also learned how to apply myself when facing difficult problems.
“Through your guidance, I believe I have become a better leader that is more accepting and open minded. Your kindness and passion made my experience of YLG one I will cherish, apply and remember for the rest of my life.”
Wanna go? Interested in becoming a part of YLG? Applications are available on Greensboro-nc.gov by searching for Youth Leadership Greensboro or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications will be accepted now through September 15, 2016 for next year’s class.