It was Saturday, August 1 at the YMCA/KTUB building in Kirkland. You could feel the excitement in the air and see the look of accomplishment on their faces. It was time for the participants of the Youth Institute Program 2015 to receive their Certificates of Completion and their monetary stipend. The room was filled with parents, family and friends who had come to support these 32 young people who had worked hard for the last 6 weeks to complete this program.
What exactly is the Youth Institute Program? It is a 6 week program for students entering 8th grade to 12th grade who must apply through their local high schools. The program started three years ago and is sponsored by YMCA/KTUB . It is comprised of intense workshops focusing on digital media, arts, creative writing, scripting, film making, oral presentations, community awareness and college field trips. The first year, the program had 5 participants, the second year 15 and this year double that at 32 graduates.
The program was designed to give these teens media skills that can help them in their lives professionally, but what they weren’t expecting were experiences that took them well beyond where they were the day it all started. They didn’t know they were embarking on a life-changing road that would help shape them as individuals as well as give them experiences that would help them learn to work with others, respect boundaries and learn what true friendship is.
To start the program off, the kids were taken on a 4 day/3 night Wilderness Retreat. These kids didn’t know each other and many tended to be loners. They were assigned to groups, given materials to build a lean-to tent, told they would be sleeping on the ground on tarps, would be preparing all their own food, AND would not be able to shower until they left camp. But the worst part for them was -- no technology was allowed for the full retreat. This was not a happy bunch of kids at this point! The groups were chosen by the heads of the program and they purposely put kids together that normally would not hang out or even talk to each other. It turned out to be a great learning experience for all the participants who said they were able to work through their differences and make wonderful friends. The whole group of teens agreed that campfire in the evening was the best part of the retreat. That is where they really got to know each other and share their life stories. One young man said, “Even though we were so different, we were so much alike. It was great to be with other kids who could relate to you. It felt like a family and we shared a lot of love.”
At the retreat, Kalika Curry, KTUB Program Coordinator shared something that all the participants took to heart and used during the whole program – “step up, step back”. She encouraged them to take a different approach to their challenges by doing the opposite of what they would normally do. If they were used to staying in the background and being quiet, they were encouraged to come forward and speak up. This was also true for those who were used to taking charge – they were reminded to step back and let their new friends be heard. Kalika said, “This created an equal playing field for everyone”. Through this experience, they learned patience, tolerance and leadership but more importantly to trust themselves and others.
After the retreat, their media work began. They were again broken up into groups of three and given a topic to create a short video. Those topics included teen suicide, depression, addiction, bullying and coming up with college tuition – things many teens are faced with today. They had to write the script, film the video, edit it and put music to it. They all agreed there were some tough moments, but again, they learned to work together, respect each other and be professional. Each participant also wrote an article for the magazine that was published at the end of the 6 weeks. The articles were written from these young people’s hearts and told many moving stories about their daily lives and experiences they have had.
At the completion of the program, each participant was given an award and a cash stipend up to $500. The stipend was determined by completion of all aspects of the program which included attendance, punctuality, tolerance, patience, working well together and meeting deadlines. There were 6 alumni attending the program this year that were able to share their previous experiences with the “new kids” and help them with their projects.
Danel Lawerence, the Leadership Development Director for KTUB said, “It has been amazing to see this program and the participants grow. Every year we continue to see the impact and value of a program like this.” Thanks to Xina Events for helping organize and decorate for the graduation, Lucia for providing dinner and Sips N’ Stems for donating the beautiful flowers
The Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation is proud to be a major contributor to this exciting and future building program. If you would like more information about the program, please contact Danel Lawrence at email@example.com.
If you would like more information about the Kirkland Kiwanis Foundation, please visit http://kirkland.kiwanis.org.
Kiwanis Club of Kirkland