There are teens in Key Biscayne who use their talents and skills to bring kindness and positive behavior to the community and beyond. And Youth Lead Change is a local program designed to help them do this and more.
The program helps high school students become stronger leaders, by offering courses in leadership, mental and emotional health, civic education / advocacy, and conceptual thinking for change. YLC also offers one-on-one mentoring.
Ellie Reyna is a MAST student attending YLC. She got the idea to make a change in her school after hearing two students make mean comments about a classmate.
Her passion is to encourage kindness and compassion. To do this, she developed ‘”The heart projectWhich advocates doing something nice every day, whether it’s opening a door, sharing a smile or saying a word of encouragement.
“I want to raise awareness of the huge impact that an act of kindness can have, not only for the recipient, but also for the donor,” said Reyna. “By helping others, you also make yourself feel better. “
Reyna’s website offers suggestions for daily acts of kindness, shares research, and features success stories. Reyne is also working on the creation of a podcast, with encouragement from Dr. Megan Poe, New York University professor, psychiatrist, social entrepreneur and artist.
Reyna was one of 14 students to receive the YLC Award, an Outward Bound course in North Carolina. Reyna said her Outward Bound experience was physically challenging, carrying a weight of 60 pounds. backpacking in primitive camping and having to lift and carry a canoe when a portage was required.
There were also emotional / intellectual challenges.
“We were given tasks to accomplish as a group. At first it was difficult for me, because I’m more used to working alone, ”she said. “On the first day of the challenge, our group struggled to make the river cross with a rope. That evening, after we had the chance to discuss what was wrong and brainstorm solutions, it became clear that as a group we were so much better equipped to be successful than when we were trying to figure it out. the challenge by ourselves.
Another participant in the program is Roberto Augustini, who will be senior next year at MAST. His passion is the research and development of sustainable mental health.
“We are all under as much stress as students in a high-intensity school. It is important to learn the tools to help understand and control our emotions, ”said Augustini, president of the Interact club at MAST.
His project associated him with HahnX, an organization created to have a positive impact on the world’s greatest challenges, as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.
“By learning not to be stressed and to control your thoughts, you can become an effective leader,” said Augustini, who said he planned to major in chemistry after high school and then go to college. medicine.
Reyna and Augustini were already involved in the Green Champions Club at MAST, another YLC partner, which encourages students to be active in environmental initiatives.
The village funds YLC through the Key Biscayne Community Foundation. Students earn community service hours and certificates for attending classes. The initiative’s website, Youthleadkb.org, provides information and a platform to promote each young person’s project.
Youth Lead Change was founded in 2019 by Pat Woodson, Executive Coach, Former KB Village Council Member, Village Parks and Open Space Council Chair, and Serial Entrepreneur.
As an incubator for youth leadership, YLC’s goal is to empower young people to become agents of positive change who “think globally and act locally”.
YLC is available to all high school students attending MAST or residing in Key Biscayne.
“I had a great team that supported me when I started this program, with Mark Brown, author and Outward Bound professional leadership instructor, and Eduardo Balerezo, professor at the Watson Institute for Social Entrepreneurship, at the University. Lynn, ”Woodson said.
“The Florida Outward Bound Advisory Board was instrumental in creating the vision for YLC as a way to activate young people for compassion in action,” she said. “Peace First has also done a great job helping us launch the program, offering inspiring young educators and intensive workshops in social entrepreneurship. “
This year, YLC also co-created a pilot civic education course with Vote the Future, launching an Expeditionary Leadership Course and a Research Associate Summer Internship.
Interns are matched with high level mentors; including university professors, experts and doctors, including the village resilience director, Dr Roland Samimy, and environmental lawyer Julie Dick.
Youth Lead Change will continue to offer a variety of online courses, but also hope to meet at the Key Biscayne Community Center, where they have held workshops and in-person classes in the past.
“New for upcoming online courses this school year are ‘Youth Peace in Action’ in collaboration with Rotary International, and a ‘Citizen superpower’ series,” said Woodson.
“We are starting to prepare to bring the YLC program to Liberty City,” added Woodson. “We want to foster the success of student leaders in Liberty City and Overtown, helping them achieve the change they want to see in their communities and beyond. “
If you are a high school student interested in getting involved in this program, please visit them online here or contact Pat Woodson at [email protected]