From Isaiah Lewis, NYLC Youth Advisory Council member.
I began working with NYLC along with 9 other youth as a member of their Youth Advisory Council one year ago. We all started our terms at the same time, and since coming together and interacting as a group at our Fall Retreat and at More Powerful Together, the 26th Annual National Service-Learning Conference® last April, we have formed a cohesive and motivated unit dedicated to furthering the reach of service-learning. Last month, the 2015 National Youth Leadership Training served as an opportunity to add more young leaders to Youth4Education – NYLC’s newly-launched campaign to end educational inequity though service-learning – in Lead Activists, and to give them the tools to execute their own service-learning projects in their home communities. On paper and in the conference calls before the training, NYLT appeared educational and informative. It looked like a chance to meet up and plan our next steps and share them. In short, it looked remarkably formal. But, thankfully, it was far from it.
For the majority of our camp, we were not “taught.” No one stood at the front of a classroom and told us how to form a service-learning project or how to recognize true problems in our communities. Instead, we were thrown into a series of physical and experiential tasks that gave us an opportunity to see the world through a lens we do not usually recognize, allowing us to not only do but to see why we did. Through numerous reflections, we taught each other about problems in our world that we could fix. That was the most striking part of NYLT. Very rarely did we have to learn with any moderation. Instead, we took the scenarios we all endured and collectively learned. We bonded together and became our own database for ideas.
At NYLT, it seemed as if the conversations never stopped. After we would finish reflecting on the day as a large group, we regularly spread out around our space and continued talking about everything from racial boundaries to what our hometowns are like. I learned more about the people I met in camp than I have from some of my closest friends. We established an environment where we could ask anything, no matter how nervous we were, and always get an answer. An environment where, even when we were uncomfortable, we shared our thoughts. We made our own safe place, something I do not see often anywhere in this world.
NYLT was, in a word, empowering. We didn’t really learn; we experienced. We grew as people and as leaders. NYLT effectively galvanized us as a group; one ready to work together for Youth4Education. NYLT made me excited to get to work on #Youth4Ed, and turn the deep and impactful conversations we started from ideas to action.