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November 3, 2023

Over 50 Opportunity Youth from Across the U.S. Attend Annual Leadership Conference

Motivated young people gather in Washington D.C. for the 2023 YouthBuild USA AmeriCorps Conference of Young Leaders

Over 50 young leaders from YouthBuild programs across the country and 19 YouthBuild alumni members came together at the 35th Annual YouthBuild USA AmeriCorps Conference of Young Leaders (CoYL) in Washington, D.C., during the week of October 23rd.

Through CoYL, YouthBuild AmeriCorps students are brought together to fully experience the breadth and impact of YouthBuild’s global movement rooted in leadership, service, education, and job skills training. Throughout the three-day conference, participants further developed their leadership skills, expanded their network and explored this year’s theme, “Connecting Communities.”

By building connections with each other and YouthBuild alumni, participants realized the critical role they play in the extensive, global YouthBuild network and brainstormed concrete actions they can take to change their communities for the better. They did this using the tool of design thinking — a human-centered, creative, and empathetic approach to developing solutions and understanding their root causes. Through collaborative, interactive workshops led by YouthBuild alumni, the participants learned how to identify community issues, brainstorm innovative solutions, and prototype their ideas. This process encouraged them to think creatively and critically, and become active problem solvers and change agents in their communities.

Participants present their design thinking solutions to fellow young leaders, staff, and guests.

Participants also explored different storytelling techniques to effectively communicate both their individual and community’s strengths and inspire others to take action. They took part in an asset-based storytelling workshop, where they practiced sharing their personal narratives, developed their communication skills, and deepened their understanding of the leadership and lived-experience they possess while mobilizing others towards a common goal.

Throughout the conference, YouthBuild alumni facilitated workshops and spoke on panels, inspiring participants to be leaders in their communities. James Mackey, a 2008 graduate of YouthBuild Columbus, gave a welcome address sharing his personal trajectory of transformation and healing from YouthBuild as he became a community leader, social justice activist, and entrepreneur. He invited the participants to welcome not being perfect and lean into self-acceptance as a way of strengthening connections within their communities. On Wednesday, October 24th, Bea Sweet, who graduated in 2000 from Century Center for Economic Opportunity (CCEO) YouthBuild in Lennox, California, gave the alumni keynote address. She encouraged participants to practice empathy and inclusiveness, set firm goals, welcome change, and embrace their uniqueness to find long-term personal and professional success.

“The global reach of the YouthBuild movement expands the vision of these young leaders to see that they are part of something larger than their respective local programs and larger than themselves,” said John Valverde, president and CEO of YouthBuild USA. “By exploring and brainstorming solutions with their peers, they are aligning around what is just, and learning about what is possible as they work to transform their communities. The Conference of Young Leaders is a valuable convening of creativity, power, and joy. Every year, I’m so honored to be part of it.”

In YouthBuild programs, opportunity youth — young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed — pursue their education, prepare for future careers and grow into community leaders, building brighter futures for themselves and their neighborhoods. Local programs can select up to two YouthBuild AmeriCorps students to attend CoYL.

Participants visit the Washington Monument.

With love and respect, YouthBuild partners with opportunity youth to build the skillsets and mindsets that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood, and leadership. Responding to the urgent need for knowledge, training, and opportunity, YouthBuild primarily serves young people who lack a high school diploma and financial resources.

YouthBuild USA is the nonprofit support center for a global network of more than 280 local YouthBuild programs in 18 countries, with 223 programs in 47 U.S. states and territories and 61 programs in 14 other countries.

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