Saturday, November 22, 2014

A YOUTH LEADER STORY



Sidney Jones
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sidney is an amazing senior at Casady School in Oklahoma City.  When she was a freshman she had the vision to start a "unique" youth board for Oklahoma City teens, Youth LEAD (Leaders Engaging Across Differences), an identity and diversity education youth board by teens, for teens.  

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The seed for the idea was planted at a National Service-Learning Conference where the Shinnyo-en Foundation advocated for the creation of interfaith service youth boards across the nation.
  
Sidney was, at first, the only Casady teen interested in spending time involved in discussions to create a teen board focused on developing facilitation skills of difficult conversations, exploring personal identities and enhancing understanding of the cultural diversity in the teen tapestry of Oklahoma City.  Her interest connected to a youth from Heritage Hall High School, Sam K'15. and a teen from Douglas High School, Dane N.'15.  This small group of teens found fertile ground with organizations of similar vision, Casady School Service-Learning, the YMCA Youth Initiatives of Greater Oklahoma City, the Respect Diversity Foundation, CAIR of Oklahoma City, Mercy School Institute and Youth LEAD, Sharon.  

After a couple of years of organizing and planning, Sidney attended her first Youth LEAD, Sharon TIDE conference in Boston.  Her enthusiasm to create a Youth LEAD OKC (YLOKC) grew. Sidney and the small committee of teens launched YLOKC in April 2013 after a training by Tabitha May Tolub, CEO of Roots and Wings.  

In the first year of operations Sidney helped organize, facilitated, and/or participated in the following YLOKC projects: A summer break clean-up of farm fields after the F-5 tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma.  Sidney worked with teens from Oklahoma and across the USA.  The project was a collaboration with a grassroots movement, Field of Teams and was facilitated by Cyclone peer Youth Leader Yogaish K.   Then, youth LEADers facilitated a debate featuring two Oklahoma political leaders on pro and con considerations about building storm shelters for public schools in Oklahoma City.  The debate was facilitated by Sidney's Cyclone peer, Natasha S'14.   The next project brought awareness of the lack of educational dreams of US migrant workers' children.  YLEADers facilitated a discussion of  the documentary "La Cosecha" at Douglas High School.  The facilitators of the discussion came from different schools including Sidney's Cyclone peer and YAC Peace Team member, Ananya B'17.

 Youth LEADers then provided the workshop "I AM" which focused on stereotypes for middle school age at Boys and Girls Club.  The workshop was facilitated by Sidney's Cyclone Youth LEAD peer, Jack B.  The 2014-2015 school year began with YLEADers creating a yearly schedule and marketing materials to recruit new members.  The kick-off activity was a meal and fiesta @ OK Kids Korral where youth leaders prepared and shared a Mexican meal, photo booth, Spanish and Middle Eastern dancing, and making pinwheels for peace to plant at gardens to raise awareness of the 21st of September, International Day of Peace with children undergoing oncology treatment at near by hospitals and their families.  The activity was facilitated by the YLOKC planning committee led by Sidney's peer Cyclone Youth Leader, and YAC Peace Team member, Johnny L.'17.    


After a lock-in at Camp Fire USA where Youth LEADers learned how to facilitate like a rock star from Tabitha, Sidney emerged as the leader of the planning committee.  She is facilitating the organization and transportation of teens to a cultural fest for the children of Positive Tomorrows, the Oklahoma City school for homeless children.  Youth LEADers will feature India, Japan, Spanish speaking countries, and the Middle East with interactive booths about the heritage of their roots.  They will share donated foods, age-appropiate cultural aspects, as well as provide goodie bags with books donated by the Come and Read with Me Program of the Metropolitan Library Systems for 50 children to read during the holidays.  The activity will take place December 18, 2014.

Sidney's interest in an "Out of the Box" idea has created an empowering youth board that focuses on teens as resources of positive change with service-learning projects where teens own the planning, implementation and facilitation of activities as well as the success or failure of their actions.  Win to Win initiatives in which teens know the transforming power of being agents of compassion, kindness and service. 

Sidney is also the Co-President of the Casady YAC, (Youth Acting in the Community)  which she has led since her freshman year.  She is an active volunteer in her church, an skillful rancher, a gifted quilter, and an inclusive and supportive friend.




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