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2016 Youth Leadership Summit

Zachary Stocks


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Students at YLS
Students at the Youth Leadership Summit

This year GEAR UP hadseveral students who were able to attend Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) in Washington DC. These students received leadership training in a number of areas and are now better equipped to become community leaders making a real difference. Aside from the training they received, they were also able to have a discussion with one of congressman Rob Bishop's staffers about the imortance of the GEAR UP program.

We feel that YLS was a huge success for the students involved. But, you don't have to take our word for it! Below are two letters GEAR UP received from students who had the opportunity to attend YLS. Take a look at what they had to say about how YLS made a difference for them in the letters below:

Letter 1
Thank you for creating the opportunity for me to attend the Gear Up national leadership conference. It was an extraordinary experience and I’m so grateful I was able to attend.

By being a part of a community of leaders, I actually feel I learned a lot about leadership just by working with my peers. We were given a great deal of autonomy in projects and activities at the summit, so we were able to strengthen our leadership skills through hands on experience. I made a lot of close new friends, both with students from Utah and from around the country.

The highlight of my trip was helping give a presentation about racism to an 1800 person audience. It was eye-opening to hear my peers’ stories about the racial discrimination they’ve endured in their lives. It was an important reminder of the need to support and look out for my fellow young people.

Another exciting element of the leadership summit was receiving a TI-nspire cx calculator from Texas Instruments. Every student received a calculator and was given a training on how to use many of its high-tech elements. It was especially valuable for me since I don’t own the proper calculator for my math class, so it will be a huge asset for me for both during high school and college.

Finally, I loved the opportunity to speak with Congressman Rob Bishop’s staffer about the importance of Gear Up. It was so exciting to be a participant in the top levels of US government, as well as a joy to spend some time with our Gear Up coordinators. The staffer was highly receptive to our statements, and I feel confident that our meeting strengthened the relationship between our Congressman and the Gear Up community.

Returning to Utah, I hope to use the leadership skills I gained to educate my peers about the extraordinary resources our Gear Up grant provides. Again, I’m so grateful to have had this experience and for the generosity of those who made this trip possible.

Letter 2
My experience at the "Youth Leadership Program" in Washington DC was an experience I will never forget. From the long plane rides to the short sleepless nights, I would redo this whole trip in a heartbeat.

Once our group arrived at Washington DC and dropped our bags at the hotel. We immediately thought of the places we could see, lucky for us the White house wasn't too far and we began our journey soon after. Seeing the white house even in down pouring rain was just too real for me to take in. Along with seeing parts of the national mall with my group, as time began to thin out we were off to begin our experience at the "YLS."

Walking into the room full of students was pretty overwhelming for me and my partner. There weren’t many students from Utah, but let me just say that Texas holds up their phrase of "Everything's bigger in Texas," because there was a vast amount of kids in Texas that did YLS.

The group activity games we did were so fun and emotional and just brought everyone together closer, as if we were a family. By the time the whole conference was over no one wanted to leave and there were tears sheading left to right because of how impactful this grogram was. I now have friends from all around the states, and its all thanks to this program.

By the time I was heading home I felt like a stronger person who could create a change in my school or community if I decided to put in the effort and hard work. I'm very thankful for being able to participate in this year YLS and will hope to be given the same opportunity next year.