After months of training, the eight YEP youth in the Twin Cities attended the “Youth Empowerment Summit,” this past July. This week-long trip to Washington D.C. connected Twin Cities’ YEP team with other YEP students around the Nation. One hundred and twenty total attended and were privileged to stay on the George Washington University Campus.
During the summit, these building leaders received personalized coaching and mentoring from World Vision policy advisor, Adam Taylor, and through workshops, led by youth experienced in advocacy. Examples of workshops include “The Power of Spoken Word” and “You Tube Justice.”
Previous YEP graduates, now working as World Vision advocacy trainers; President of World Vision, Richard Stearns; and actress in the movie, Freedom Writers (2007), April Hernandez—were a few of the speakers and teachers during workshops and events.
Media projects—short film clips made by each YEP team, were shown during each meal. During the day, students participated in workshops and one-on-one training. During the evening, team-building games and recreational activities like bowling and pool were enjoyed.
A favorite memory included a team exercise led by Derek Greenfield. All the students and staff held hands in a circle with more than 100 people. The goal was to squeeze the hand of each person within 23 seconds. World Vision, Twin Cities’ Youth Development Associate, Merci Rocha, was at the end of the line. Her job was to yell “Aflac!” as soon as she felt her hand squeezed. Not only was each person’s hand squeezed within 23 seconds, but Merci precisely imitated the duck for Aflac insurance. She was well known for the rest of the trip.
Thursday was the big day at Capitol Hill. YEP youth visited both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The students had practiced for hours prior to this day to speak to the two senators: Al Franken and Amy Kloubachar; and three representatives: Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, and Erik Paulsen.
World Vision,TwinCities’ Students Lucina Kayee and Borisha Perkins had the privilege of sharing their story to a broad audience. Borisha volunteered her story on the IMPACT Panel with David Johns. Lucy shared her story with Richard Stearns, World Vision reporters, and was featured on Fox News, July 14.
During the last night, students dressed up for the formal gala, a night of photos and jazz music—a night to be recognized. YEP youth received certificates of completion. Scholarship recipients and youth-choice awards were announced. Borisha presented a thank-you plaque to David Johns for his encouragement when she volunteered her story during a YEP workshop.
“I have never had a male figure who makes you feel like you’re up to their level,” said Lucina Kayee of Richard Stearns. “We’re on the same page, we’re partners together. I think that’s what World Vision is all about.” Lucina was one of two delegates who gave their reflections following the keynote speech of Richard Stearns.
During the Summit, the YEP youth made plans for moving forward upon returning home for this fall. The YEP graduates will engage middle-school youth in advocacy and leadership training.