Kailey Paszko | December 24, 2021
As I sit here trying to process the fact that yet another year is almost in the books, I am reminded of how much joy, connection, and meaning ULEAD got to be a part of this year. As an organization, 2021 proved to be a year of continued growth and collaborations as seen by some of the amazing organizations we got to partner with- stemming from the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, Elkhart County Parks and Recreation, and Elkhart Community Schools- to name a few! It has been a true honor and privilege to work with and serve such great partners, who align with ULEAD’s mission of inviting individuals to discover their why, grow their skills, and inspire others.
As ULEAD’s Youth Development Specialist, I have had the privilege of getting to work with some amazing students over this past year! Through our various youth programs, I have been fortunate enough to witness some really cool ‘Ah-Ha!’ moments.
While it’s tricky to pick one year defining moment (in my mind, that’s like having to pick a favorite child or pet or worse- favorite type of donut!) there is a particular individual that comes to mind. Over the past year we have had the opportunity to partner with Elkhart Community Schools to launch a Leadership Ambassador Program. This program currently works with pre-selected 8th grade students from each of the three Elkhart Community Middle Schools. And my ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment of 2021 comes from this group. To provide some context, our Leadership Ambassador Program runs weekly for six weeks. Given that this program is conducted over a period of time versus a day long program, we are presented with a chance to see how the students and the dynamics of the group grow from week to week. This individual joined the program starting off a bit more reserved and would shy away from speaking publicly or sharing in a larger group setting. However, as the weeks went by and as the group started to get more comfortable with each other, you could see this student stretch themselves by becoming more vocal. To the point where by the last few weeks of the program, they were sharing ideas and leading group debrief discussions!
During one of our group reflection periods, this student acknowledged that speaking publicly was outside of their comfort zone for them because they tend to be a bit more introverted and haven’t always felt supported when they share thoughts or ideas. So, they, along with the rest of the group, recognized and celebrated how big of a deal it was that the student felt comfortable enough to share.
Having the opportunity to co-create meaning and a space for those we work with to feel supported, empowered, affirmed, and inspired is something I feel really grateful to be a part of. As we reflect back on the year as it comes to an end, we celebrate all of our wins and successes, and dream about ways we can continue to help our next generation of leaders discover their why, grow their skills, and inspire others. And donuts. Always dream of ways to get more donuts.
Kailey Paszko, Youth Experience Specialist at ULEAD