I was able to attend the YouthBuild USA 2015 National Directors Association Meeting in Arlington, Virginia. The meeting brought together directors from over 100 YouthBuild programs across the country. Here are my top three takeaways from the conference:
1. Options are Key for Student Success
This was a theme that resonated throughout the conference. Not everyone learns the same way, or at the same pace, so it's important for programs to be able to provide students with alternatives to complete their education. This may be a GED program, an online or blended high school diploma program, or studying at the local school district " the method doesn't matter. What does matter is that students have access to options that will work for them and create successful outcomes.
2. "It's About the Long Play"
This statement was made by Ameen Akbar, Director of Student Life at YouthBuild Philadelphia and the long play he was referring to is a reality that YouthBuild programs and other organizations that serve Opportunity Youth face every day: you're young people overnight. YouthBuild staff put in the work now to enrich the lives of opportunity youth knowing that any visible change may not come for months, if not years down the road, but every single interaction up until then is what helps shape that young person.
3. The People Are What Make YouthBuild Great
Being around the YouthBuild program directors and national staff was truly inspiring. The dedication YouthBuild staff members show to improving the lives of their young people is really just incredible. They are invested in their young people, who many other may have given up on, and are on a mission to help them succeed. These are individuals who are truly committed to the service of others and, at the end of the day, that is really what helps them transform the lives of those that they touch.