We are proud supporters of Maine Youth Leadership, an annual seminar for which one sophomore from each Maine high school is selected to participate. The 2017 event kicked off on Thursday and wrapped Sunday afternoon. There, students—each of whom are selected by their high school based on a range of diverse criteria as decided by that school—come together to volunteer, discuss character, bond, meet and hear from folks like Senator Angus S. King and more. By the time they are to leave come Sunday nearly every young adult has been so moved that they cry at the thought of being separated from each other, and MYL staff works with and challenges them to imagine ways to take the lessons and vibes that moved them back to school.
We support this program in a number of ways, from throwing fundraisers to do contributing funds and lending me [Alex] to the seminar so that I can give a bunch of time and serve as a volunteer staffer. We do it because I went to the program when I was a kid. Before I went, I was a kid with a good heart who was bored and so I did a lot of stupid things. MYL was the first place I felt taken seriously for being empathic and intellectually curious by other students and adults, not written off as "just a kid." My school noted a marked difference in my outlook and disposition. The change did not come because I was told or shown anything beyond the fact that I mattered and, if I felt disaffected there were things I could do.
I return, and we support the program, because this is an awesome thing to do for kids. It's run 100% by volunteers and nearly wholly by alumni who were served by it. But I return for selfish reasons too. I come back because there's nothing better than the energy of optimistic kids who are inspired by feeling heard and taken seriously. And there's nothing better than being with kids like this, and kids like me who aren't inherently optimistic but would benefit from knowing they aren't alone, that they have more agency than they imagined. That recharges my internal battery. To disconnect from the world [as much as one can] for 4 days and to just sit in this inspiration and be made fortunate by their willingness to share that with you—I clearly get as much from them as they do from the annual experience.
You can support the group here, and I hope you do:
If not, it's cool too. I just wanted you to know about this great thing that's out there in the world.