May 2023 eNews Guest Editor, Stephanie Shumate (LT 34)

If you ask me, (and Lili and Barbara did ask me to be guest editor so…here you go…) Youth Leadership Tallahassee (YLT) is the hidden gem of our LT Programs! Well, it might not be that hidden because 37 high school juniors can be loud and well seen, especially when scooting around downtown Tallahassee on a YLT program day in matching shirts.

I’ve loved YLT even before I was a member of LT. I called Julie Lovelace when I was a sophomore at FSU, circa 2005/2006 about volunteering with YLT, but I was informed that was a privilege for LT members. And Julie was right, it’s truly been a privilege this past year serving as YLT Class 19 Curriculum Chair and to think it almost didn’t happen, ekk! Last spring when Lili asked me if I had any interest in serving as the YLT 19 Curriculum Chair, I was so excited, but had to say no. Shocking, right? As much as I wanted to say yes, I was originally supposed to be out of town during the Opening Retreat dates, which we all know is an automatic non-negotiable, but with a change of plans just a day later, I called Lili back and asked if the offer was still on the table, and as they say, the rest is history!

This was the first time in the past three years that we returned to a true YLT overnight retreat. We wanted to make sure the weekend was energizing and set a positive tone for the year to come. The immersive time together, away from the distractions of Tallahassee, helped shape the bonds and started planting pivotal seeds for leadership that can’t be matched without an overnight experience! And speaking of matches, with StrengthFinders, we found a 1 in 278,000 match with the same top 5 themes between Vincent and Joshua. We’ve never seen this as facilitators and was a glimpse into how special this class would be. This year we also introduced BaFa BaFa to YLT, this was an activity like no other and we look forward to having it as part of the retreat for years to come.

As we just celebrated YLT Class 19 at their graduation, the laughter and chatter as we reminisced over the past year had me in all the feels, and no, it was not because I just had a baby (FYI…Paisley is the youngest YLT member ever!) Seeing how the students have matured personally, professionally, and emotionally in ways that not only will benefit them as they continue to grow as leaders but is already making our community better is inspiring.

YLT Class 19 has 37 of the most talented, funny, smart, thoughtful, bold, outspoken, and creative students in our area. If you didn’t do anything with YLT this year, unfortunately you missed out, and I encourage you to rethink your engagement with the program next year. Every program day was an opportunity to show up and do better, for and with these students. There were moments of laughter, curiosity, tears, joy, fun, and plenty of insight that made me often think about the community we are creating for our young people.

Do we have it all figured out? No.

Are we providing enough resources/opportunities for our young leaders? Maybe.

Is working with 37 teens while growing a small human exhausting? Yes.

Did I show up and feel incredibly honored to be able to help shape these young leaders’ lives every program day? Absolutely!

And for me that’s what YLT is all about, the opportunity to show up! Our young people need us to show up in their lives big and small. YLT engaged in meaningful conversations and experiences with each other, our LT volunteers, our community members, and with me personally, that encouraged me to be a better listener, advocate, and leader for them, and all our future generations. Be it a big a-ha moment or a hard conversation about privilege, to a silly inside joke or a student sharing about their mental health, every conversation, smile, stern side-eye, or moment with these students matters, because they matter!

If you are on the fence about becoming involved with YLT, I would encourage you to hop off the fence, even if you are a little intimidated, yes 15- and 16-year old’s can be intimidating. Choose to show up for them and our community by giving of your time, talents, or treasures to a program that has poured so much into you. YLT is a direct reflection of LT, be a meal sponsor, volunteer for a program day, sponsor the retreat, help a student with an externship, or save a student board position for a YLT’er. YLT needs us, but we need YLT more than they do us, so do yourself a favor and show up!

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