Sometimes I like to imagine what people think of our little group if they were to pass us all together on the street. Most people would probably assume that in a mixed group of youth and adults that the adults are the teachers and the youth are the learners. When people hear about what we do and how our program works, they assume that the grown-ups are the experts that are leading the students to new exciting experience that will change the lives of the youth forever. And that's true sometimes. But in youth programs, transformational learning happens both ways.
Yes. The adults who work with and for YP are excellent role models for the students to look up to. They are servant leaders, compassionate, easy to talk to, fun people that anyone would want to be friends with. They encourage our kids to be the bigger person in sticky situations. They help them see a future full of hope and greatness that the student doesn't always see themselves. They challenge the youth to be leaders among their peers and to take care of their families well. Because of the quality of our staff and volunteers students, lives are changed for the better. They are strengthened in their faith, they are reminded of their purpose, and they are loved like family by people who aren't family. All of this helps create relationships between youth and volunteers that have lasting impacts.
But what people seem to miss is that our students have just as much (and really more) to offer to us than we have to offer them. They challenge us to know who we are, to fight for real relationships with people, and to be vulnerable with each other. The expectations we have for them, they also have for us. They push us to be people of good character, to love our families well, to know us through and through. They share their culture and knowledge freely and aren't afraid to ask hard questions. If we expect them to share the hard, not so perfect parts of their life with us, they expect us to share back. They welcome us into their worlds and teach us to look at the world through a different lens.
Volunteers walk into our program hoping to make a difference in a kid's life. What they never expect is how much the youth change them. And that's part of the beauty of YP.