The Power of Youth
Reflections on leadership and youth empowerment
On my last day at Young Governors, I received an email from one of the high school leaders that I worked with. Attached was a collage of photos — about me. A film camera, my favorite animated character, and Vietnam. My three months ended in a kind note, as surreal and revealing as many moments I have experienced that summer.
In a way, my first job out of college was one of my dream jobs. The rationale is as simple and profound as having the freedom to do what makes your mind dazzled and your soul kind, yet resilient. I remember confessing to my boss that it didn’t feel like working most of the time. “This is something that I would do for free,” I said.
In the searing heat of many summer days, we painted a community mural, collected and shared stories from those experiencing homelessness, served in homeless meal centers; we organized secret birthday parties for one another and gave handmade cards; we discussed about race, poverty, education, politics, voting, and interpersonal relationships in a safe and open space. We did so while striving to give each other honest feedbacks when team conflicts arose. As youth coming from communities, cultures, and countries that have different expectations of us, we participated in things we could never take for granted.
We see power in ourselves.
Leadership comes in circle. The circle gets bigger as we put the best of ourselves forward by investing in the next generation. I marvel at how four years ago, I was one of the high school students challenging myself to start focusing on the community around me.
It was the beginning of a journey that I delved into with eagerness and naivety, idealism and cynicism, constant internal struggles, and my whole self.
Through Young Governors, I have come to see leadership under its different forms. I once learned from those older and more experienced from me, and now I learned from the youth I worked with. A leader doesn’t have to be someone that fits into the societal expectations and media representations of us. The notion of leadership shouldn’t stop at a workshop, a role on our resume, or a story from our role models. It evolves and stays challenged when interacting with different groups and people. It incorporates our own stories.
Seeing youth step up and lead is surreal and I am grateful to be a part of that journey. I feel humble and thankful for the impact that they have made on my life. Thank you for inspiring me to become a better role model, a more considerate, patient person, and a kinder soul.
Thank you, onward.