During my first interview to join the Roots & Shoots U.S. National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC), I was asked what my biggest accomplishment was. This question was difficult for me. Sure, I could say I got good grades in school, was good at some sports, or had done a lot of service, but I wanted something more than that. Yes, I was proud that I got good grades in high school, but getting good grades certainly wasn’t my “passion.” After some thought, I decided that my biggest accomplishment was making the decision to apply to be on the NYLC. I’d known what I was passionate about for a while, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I was going anywhere with that passion. Applying to join the Council was one of the first steps that started me on my journey to where I want to be and what I want to be doing with my passion for helping the Earth. I imagined the responses the other applicants had to that question and felt that I had definitely “accomplished” the least.
All that being said, after two years on the Council, I wouldn’t have wanted my biggest accomplishment to have been anything else. Here’s why joining the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council was the best decision I’ve ever made.
3 GIFTS THE NYLC GAVE ME
As I mentioned previously, at the start of my time on the Council I was constantly comparing myself to other members, and I felt like I wasn’t “good” enough. However, this has changed dramatically throughout my two years on the Council. Not only have staff at Roots & Shoots encouraged me to trust myself and my skills, but everyone on the Council only wants the best for me as well. Along with being encouraged by my peers, they also motivate me to want more for myself. We are able to share both our failures and successes and receive applause for both because, of course, a success is great, but a failure has the ability to teach you even more than a success can.
One of the most memorable experiences for me was at the end of the NYLC Summit when we all wrote little notes of appreciation to each other. Although what was actually written on these notes made me feel good, it was the fact that they all came from people I admired so much that was so powerful to me.
Each month, we have an online call where a professional, in nearly any industry imaginable, presents about their work and then allows time for discussion. We have heard speakers talk about issues ranging from animal agriculture to biofuel made from algae to filming documentaries. The amazing thing is that normally if you were to go to one of these person’s talk, all you’d be able to do was hear them speak and then leave. On the Council, we are encouraged to reach out to the speakers and thank them for their time and also ask further questions.
This is so valuable because if you are really struck by one of the topics on a call, you have the chance of possibly getting involved with that organization or that person’s work.
If you ask any member of the NYLC what their favorite aspect of being on the Council is, you will hear a resounding answer that expresses something along the lines of a deep thankfulness to finally have found a group of young people who have such a selfless desire to help the world — who care just as much about helping the world as you do.
This past summer, at the four-day NYLC Summit, was the first time I finally met everyone on the Council, and during those few days we were all together, I was nearly moved to tears on so many occasions simply by realizing again and again how amazing it felt to be surrounded by people whose dream in life is to help the world by doing what they are passionate about. This is something I had never felt before in my entire life, and meeting the council members and the staff made me feel like I had finally found a place where I undoubtedly felt I was meant to be.
I’d like to leave you with some words from a fellow NYLC member, Yanni Pappas, who beautifully expresses the feelings of community and empowerment that comes with being on the NYLC:
“For me the Council has become a family. Being with other kids who share the same passion for change reminds me that no matter what challenges this world faces, or what challenges I myself must face, I am not alone in confronting them. They have become my best friends, people who have inspired me so much I cannot imagine not knowing them. This pure, genuine love for each other, for the Earth, for everyone is what makes this Council so powerful.”
Find your confidence, connections, and community! U.S. high schoolers in grades 8-11 can apply to join the 2017 Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council. Applications are due November 1. Click here to learn more and apply.
Educators and parents, share the application with your youth. Motivated, promising students at Title 1 schools are encouraged to apply.