rachelle: the fire within youth

20140729_YUGA_569As youth, we have a unique perspective on the world. Though most of us have not spent more than 16 or 17 years on this earth, we possess a fire within us and a sense of adventure. We set outstanding goals and believe anything is possible. We come in willing to learn and absorb all that we can. “No” is the fuel to our fire. There may be obstacles set in front of us and all the odds stacked against what we are fighting for, but some way we find it in us to keep fighting and pushing.

Photo: Rachelle 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).

If people don’t invest in the youth now, and if the youth don’t act now to educate themselves soon, there cannot be a bright future. It is important that young people acquire a voice and knowledge of global issues so we can ensure that the world will be the way we want it. If we are in touch with the world and know about the issues, our voice can make a difference.

I got involved in a YUGA club at my school in my freshman year. I was concerned about global issues, but I didn’t know too much about them or where to start.

Fast forward to now, I am going to be a junior and the president of my school’s YUGA club. Being in a YUGA club, I have learned so much about global issues and I have grown to enjoy learning about the world around me and different cultures. But going to the YUGA Summit was a whole new experience. I hoped to become a leader, find my voice, and be able to stand out in the crowd. Within the span of the 5-day Summit, I can say I have done all of these things and the fire within me has grown and my voice is growing louder.

I witnessed a spark in every one of the Summiters. There is a whole network of amazing youth who have the passion and fire within them. They harvest this flame and focus it on global issues. It was amazing to see a group of people my age that actually cared about things bigger than twitter and hanging out with their friends. The youth involved in YUGA are enthusiastic, passionate, eager to learn, and ready to take action to make a difference in the world around them.


Rachelle (left) and Nicole (right) present their solutions to the challenge of finding clean water at this year’s YUGA Leadership Summit.

Along with the Summiters, there is a community of adults who believe in youth. They are there to help mold and guide them into the leaders and pioneers of change that they need to be. Most important, there is an organization, Plan International USA, who sees the potential youth can have to bring new insights to discussions about world issues and decision making processes.

Everyone has the drive in them, yet some may not know how to embrace it, or what to do with it. Others may be scared to speak up because they believe their voice alone can’t make a change. But the first and most important thing youth can do is find others that will support what they believe in. A group of people that band together and back each other up can make all the difference and help others realize their true power. No matter the size of the group, everyone must have the excitement and passion to take action, which can make all the difference. The support you need is out there, like the adults in YUGA who know the importance of youth empowerment and see the power of young peoples’ voices.

After becoming passionate about something, youth immediately gather their peers and educate them. Their passion becomes contagious.

Youth can create change with a different attitude that adults would. Youth are the ones with the fire in them, want to improve the world they live in and crave change.

To all youth interested in global issues: You need to use your passion to be proactive. You can be the change. You must have the fire within you and the desire to learn.

top 5 tips for building a YUGA chapter


YUGA members work together during a workshop at the 2014 YUGA Summit.

DOWNLOAD: Tips for Building a Motivated YUGA Team

With the school year approaching, you must be thinking of ways to recruit members for your YUGA chapter and, most important, ways to keep them engaged throughout the year.

Remember our workshop on leadership and team-building? Here’s the handout that Jeremy provided: “Tips for Building a Motivated YUGA Team.” Click to download it and keep it with you. It’s a great resource for any team–whether a YUGA chapter or not!

During the workshop with Jeremy, everyone came up with their own tips for recruiting others and motivating them. These are the Top 5 Tips created by participants at this year’s YUGA Summit–the best of the best. We hope you agree!

1. Establish a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere by listening to others. We mean really listen, even if it might be something that you don’t want to hear. And don’t interrupt!

2. Use “We” statements and not “I” to communicate with your team. That way, they can better understand that they are part of the larger YUGA network, and that their chapter has goals you will achieve together.

3. Don’t dwell on the negative – accentuate the positive. Did you lead a fundraiser that didn’t go so well? Are you having trouble getting an event approved by your school? Don’t dwell on the problems; focus on solutions!

4. Be fair, honest and consistent – show no favoritism. This can be hard to do, but remember, your YUGA chapter will only succeed if everyone feels that they are a strong, contributing member of the team.

5. Expect only the best and be proud when members achieve it! Give recognition to people who have gone above and beyond for you, both in your YUGA chapter and outside of it.

Bonus: Come up with fun and interesting projects related to a cause your team is passionate about! In order to do that, though, you have to follow the first five tips. 

What do you think? Did we get them all? What tips would YOU add?

DOWNLOAD: Tips for Building a Motivated YUGA Team

nneka: thoughts on the summit

20140730_YUGA_678I’d just like to thank all of the amazing staff at Plan International USA and all those who participated in this year’s YUGA Summit.

My favorite workshop dealt with educating youths on non-violence. I think it’s really important that youth are aware of just how much violence can influence the world we live in. It’s also really important to remind people that preventing violence and raising awareness for non-violence starts with action.

Photo: a portrait of Nneka at this year’s  YUGA Summit.

From this workshop, I hope to start a YUGA chapter centered around non-violence. Things like child abuse, domestic violence, war, and human trafficking all deal with violence. By engaging youths in these issues, maybe I’ll be able to save or prevent an individual from doing a violent act or becoming a victim of violence.