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My Experiences at The 2024 Youth Leadership Forum

When the National Honor Society was presented with the opportunity to attend the 2024 Youth Leadership Forum, a lot of us thought that it was nothing more than a student leadership conference held in Albany. However, upon arrival, we quickly realized that it was an opportunity to make our voices heard.

On the first day of the conference, we got to hear leaders and advocates for youth from all over New York speak about the importance of advocating for our needs. Angel Gray was one person who really captured my attention. She walked around the conference room and made a personal connection with everyone while she spoke. She handed off the microphone to others in the conference to voice their own concerns and issues that they have faced throughout their lives and encouraged us all to continue to do that outside of that room. She quickly turned her two hour lecture into a two hour conversation between everyone attending. One of the main points that she brought up through her lecture was that the government should not be having conversations or be making decisions about youth without the youth at the table to represent themselves. She really left an impact on me and how I see things now. 

After the first seminar, we broke up into groups and were given the option to attend two of the four other workshops taking place that day, such as How to Promote Healthy Relationships and End Relationship Abuse, Soulful Connections: Harnessing Empathy and Energy, Empowering Individuals to Become Better Advocates For Themselves, and Impacts on Mental Health. I had decided to attend Relationships and Soulful Connections. The relationships workshop was hosted by a representative from Wellspring who facilitated a conversation for people to talk about the good and the bad signs in any relationship. It was very helpful because especially as teenagers, whether it be friendships or relationships, we deal with them every single day. It’s important to be able to identify good and bad signs, as well as know how to handle them properly. Soulful Connections focused more on learning how to be in touch with yourself, and knowing what it is you truly want to get out of your life and how you are going to do it. The message was conveyed through random questions such as what superpower you want, different stretches, calming music, and breathing exercises to relax the mind and soul. 

After the workshops we were given some time to relax before the buffet dinner began. This year we did not stay the night like the other groups; however we returned the next morning to speak one on one with Senator James Tedisco and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh. We voiced our concerns about budget distribution between activities and extracurriculars, integrating more mental health awareness in schools, improving transportation for schools, and making the towns more accessible to those with a disability. 

Since I am a senior this year, I will not be able to attend again. However to all of the upcoming Juniors and Seniors who plan on joining or are already a member of the National Honor Society, I hope you attend next year.  It was an excellent event for me and my peers. The Youth Leadership Forum is more than a leadership conference, it’s an opportunity for you to advocate for change that you want or need to happen. I hope you are able to attend next year so your voice can be heard.

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