By Jordan Rasheed
YES! Youth Staff, Charlotte
The 2015 staff retreat was nothing less than a wonderful experience for tenured youth as well as newcomers, like me. The staff retreat started out with a fun scavenger hunt, which was a fun way to get to know and actually talk to the broader team we would be working with.
We then had an activity where we were grouped into different communities (we were paired with graduated youth), which gave us a chance to get to know about their unique YES! experiences, and to really get to know everyone in each community. This helped us visualize and identify with how it is in actual ‘real life’ communities, and how much these communities actually have to go through in order to get the resources their communities need in order to benefit and increase the standard of living for everyone living there.
We also had a glance into the responsibilities of adult staff and how city council and health care officials must be engaged in order to obtain critical resources the community needs, such as farm fresh foods, sidewalks, and access to healthcare. While it was mostly a struggle because the various communities we serve are so different within the state, we all learned a lot about what it’s like to have to dialogue and leverage government officials, as needed, to help reach our goal.
On the second day of the retreat, we partnered with the Highlander Research and Education Center to take part in an activity where we were put into groups, (a mixture of youth and adult staff), and were asked to demonstrate a cool and interesting way to advocate ‘originally’. Approaches were very different and ranged from poetry and dance to songs and theater. It was amazing to see the many ways we could make advocacy original and fun! At the close of the second day we had a poetry group by the name of ‘Sacrificial Poets’ who came to share some poems with both the adult and youth staff. They also had us write and present our own poems if we wanted to, which helped me see a more personal side to all of the staff that I will be working with.
Overall, my first YES! Staff retreat helped me realize how many people are affected by all of the issues we focus on as youth advocates and how many people really care enough to do something to support positive change. I’m so proud to be a part of such a team! As one of the adult staff members said, “Our goal is to one day work ourselves out of a job”. That statement really resonated with me because if we are successful in our many initiatives, it is not impossible to take change and awareness to simply a new way of life for us, as well as the communities we work within. One day I hope we will be able to make a significant change in not just our communities in North Carolina but who knows, the world as a whole, which I think is what YES! is all about!
By Andrea Boake
YES! Graduated Youth Staff, Charlotte
The 2015 YES! Staff Retreat was a great experience. I loved that YES! gave us the opportunity to interact with everyone on staff in the same setting. At YES! we do a great job interacting with other offices but it’s very rare that we all see each other in person besides trainings. During my two years at YES!, there were some adult staff that I had not had the opportunity to meet so it was nice finally meeting everyone face to face. As youth staff we are constantly learning and educating others so it was great having the opportunity to be trained by my fellow staff members. I learned a great deal of information about tobacco during this staff retreat. This was helpful because our Charlotte team has added the Tobacco Use Prevention Initiative to our efforts. Also, I was excited to see that we have added Oral Health to our initiatives at YES!. I’m really looking forward to seeing Parrish and his team flourish and create change concerning this issue.
At the end of retreat we were all asked to write our individual, organizational, and community goals for the next year. My individual goal for the next year was to continue to thrive with YES! and become a better youth advocate amongst my peers. My goal for YES! as an organization was to build stronger partnerships nationwide in the next year to contribute to funding and spreading the YES! mission. And last, but not least, a goal I would like see achieved in my community is to help bring affordable healthy foods to corner stores to combat the issues related to food deserts. Overall, the 2015 YES Staff Retreat was a weekend to remember and I’m proud to a part of this wonderful organization.