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The 10 Best Things that Happened at the YLA

By Jackie Briggs

The last week of July, a diverse group of 20 young people from the Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area converged in our capital for Plan International USA’s Youth Leadership Academy. The week was jam-packed with workshops focusing on personal leadership, the Sustainable Development Goals, and a Leadership Development Project (LDP). In true Plan fashion, it also included a lot of fun activities, dancing, games, and new friends. Plan will be working with the YLA participants throughout the 2016-17 academic year to support their LDPs and larger contributions to meeting the SDGs.

Although it was hard, we have narrowed down the week’s activities and are excited to share the Top 10 highlights with you!

1. YLA Olympics – On Tuesday night, 10 high school girls from Pakistan, here for 17 days on an exchange through the State Department and hosted by Meridian International Center, joined the YLA in the spirit of international comradery and competition to participate in YLA Olympics. Teams competed in unconventional challenges to win ultimate glory and some chocolate! 

Youth Leadership Academy

2. Gender vs. Sex Workshop – Plan’s gender expert Marcia Odell led the group through a dynamic and informative workshop on the differences between sex and gender. If the YLA participants learned nothing else, they learned, “sex characteristics remain the same through time and across all societies.” 

Youth Leadership Academy

3. Enabling Others to Act – Our corporate partners at Hobsons got theatrical, leading the group in a leadership workshop designed to teach participants how to engage and enable others around them to act and become part of the solution. 

Youth Leadership Academy

4. West African Dance Lessons – Dance teachers and drummers from a local West African dance studio spent two long hours teaching the YLA participants and staff how to move and shake! 

Youth Leadership Academy

5. Youth Action Mapping – YLA participants learned how to track and record organizations in their local communities and around the world that are working to engage youth and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This activity led the group to Plan’s offices and throughout metropolitan D.C. 

Youth Leadership Academy

6. D.C. Day – After a day of Youth Action Mapping, the group took a break to see the sites (and wave hi to the Obamas.)

Youth Leadership Academy

7. Vision Boards – As part of the leadership workshop on how to create a shared vision, YLA participants spent time reflecting on their own personal leadership visions by creating eclectic and inspiring vision boards. 

Youth Leadership Academy

8. LDP Projects and Presentations – On the last day of the week, YLA participants shared with the larger group their ideas for their LDP and received feedback, constructive criticism, and offers of support from their peers. Project ideas ranged from creating a blog about feminism and body positivity to creating safer spaces at school and in the community, to designing and leading advocacy and alliance groups for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Youth Leadership Academy

9. Focusing on Results, Processes, and Relationships – Plan’s resident Youth Engagement experts Laura Brazee and Kate Ezzes led the group in a workshop designed to show the need to focus on the results, processes, and relationships involved in any project and ways to balance and value all three.

Youth Leadership Academy

10. Talent Show – No week-long workshop with young people would be complete without a talent show to display the myriad of talents the youth brought with them. The crowds were wowed with stand-up comedy, raps, bachata lessons, singing, and more! 

Youth Leadership Academy

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