morrigan: chenille stems and whoopie pies

20140731_YUGA_201My first year at the YUGA Summit was amazing. I came into this new experience knowing absolutely no one and not knowing what to expect, but after the first day, everyone was swept up by the excitement that is YUGA.

It has been really hard for me to explain what happened at the Summit and why it was such a great experience, but I’ve found a way that can hopefully show a small snippet of what happened this summer.

Photo: Morrigan prepares to read one of her poems at the Talent Show at this year’s YUGA Leadership Summit.

Since everyone there allowed me to speak my mind and share the poems I have written in the past, I thought it would be fitting to write a poem about the environment we created together at #YUGASummit14.


Youth United for Global Action and Awareness
Hear us
Hear our chenille-stemmed tree swaying in the cool breeze
roots thirsty for information
Wind chimes hanging by the twine that holds us all together
singing the songs the world needs to hear

Flock of orange shirts and smiles
Walking 4 the Wellness of everyone
Running, leaping, dancing toward our goals

Our ideas as beautiful as the peanut butter whoopie pies in the place we call
formed as a family
grouped together by common interests and
built out of the Jenga blocks of getting to know you
Tucked in at night between
anticipation for tomorrow
mattresses that make us realize how lucky we are

The sun rises
Cards rat slap quicker than the pharaohs
painting henna memories
shaded by gazebo dreams

Information raining down on us
being caught and absorbed
allowing our roots to
weave it into our own ways of being
forever remembering
our home.

happy international YOUTH day!

Youth Day Twitter Chat Invite

After participating in a great Twitter Chat for International #YouthDay, we’re excited to share all kinds of resources and information about youth empowerment with you. Enjoy!

Article: How Does Plan International USA Engage Youth? “As a child-centered organization, Plan International recognizes the incredible power and potential of youth.”

Google+: International Youth Day, a Message to Our Leaders.

Article: On International Youth Day, Celebrate the Power of Youth by Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “Over half the world’s population is under the age of 30. The members of this youth generation — the largest in history — aren’t waiting for the future to arrive to start leading; they are leading now.”

Photo Essay: Dreaming for the Future: Youth Around the World. Beautiful, powerful images from our friends at Mercy Corps.

Article: Youth Day: No Development Without Youth Development. “We should not think of young people as a burden: they are, in fact, the greatest asset for the development agenda.” – Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nations envoy

5 Steps to More Meaningful Youth Engagement by Matthew French. “Done right, engaging youth can lead to more relevant programming and help build competent young leaders—if done wrong, however, young people can become disillusioned and valuable resources wasted.”

10 Reasons Why Youth Leadership is Important for the Health of All by Namakando Simamuna and Sarah Lindsay. “Adolescents make up 1/4 of the world’s population, but were left out of the Millennium Development Goals. Young leaders can guarantee that youth and their priority to have affordable and quality healthcare are part of the post-2015 development agenda.”

grace: reaching the summit

20140729_YUGA_572Entering the summer after my sophomore year in high school, I knew I would be busier than usual. I would be gone from home for 5 weeks at a ballet program in New York City, and then I would be heading to Roger Williams University for the YUGA Leadership Summit.

Realizing my hopes for a relaxing summer on the beach would be put on hold, I wondered what a week discussing and building knowledge on global issues could do for me. It never occurred to me that a week spent surrounded by peers and passionate counselors would have such a substantial impact on my goals moving forward. After attending the Summit, I understand just how valuable an education on global issues can be and how influential youth can be in bringing about change.

Photo: Grace poses with a sign she created as part of a “Girls Speak Out” activity. Her words, and the words of other young women at the Summit, will be submitted to the United Nations to become a part of the momentum for change at International Day of the Girl (October 11, 2014).

Immediately upon arriving at the Summit, I felt welcomed into a group of adults and teens that wanted not only to share their opinions, but also to listen and learn from the opinions of others. Several teens had attended the Summit for many years and were back to experience it again, which speaks highly to the wonderful experience YUGA provides. Not once did I feel my ideas were unwanted or ignored, and I believe each one of my fellow YUGA attendees would say the same. As I gained knowledge on global issues and ways to take action, I also met kids who are the most genuine, enthusiastic, and dedicated people I had ever known, and people I am proud to call my friends.

That’s what I enjoyed most about YUGA: everything about the Summit was genuine and real. With a focus on such vast and complicated topics such as women’s education and climate change, it’s so easy to believe that nothing can be done. You learn about issues happening in your own state, country, and around the world and sometimes struggle to see a way end to such widespread suffering and hardship. What makes this camp so special is that each member walks away knowing the issues that plague our globe and its inhabitants, and what things can be done to help. YUGA teaches you that you can become informed, you can take action, you can make a difference, and most important, you don’t have to do it alone.

The world is waiting for you to become aware and to begin to take action. It all starts at YUGA Summit.

Each of us left the Summit feeling empowered to take action in our own communities. A week of small steps can make a major difference in the world. My YUGA friends and I are living proof.