Last year, our youth leadership group in Antigua was refreshed and re-energized, and the results have been inspiring. The number of youth leaders has more than doubled—from nine members last year, to an astounding 21 members this year.
The program works to develop leadership qualities, and the students participate in a number of different training sessions like exercises on public speaking, for example. The group members also give talks each week on a variety of topics ranging from self-esteem to drug prevention.
Two students from last year have continued to participate in the youth leadership group. One student is Dulce, who started getting involved in youth activities in 2010. Dulce loves to draw and wants to be an architect one day. She says, “My dream is that people recognize me in the world of architecture.” Dulce’s ambition is apparent. She says that she decided to be in the leadership group because she likes to participate in activities and if other kids were doing it, why not her? Last year, Dulce was the youngest and quietest member of the group. She was very shy and had a particularly hard time with public speaking. Thanks to continued encouragement from her peers, Dulce says she’s gotten better at expressing herself. “Before when I had to talk in front of people, I felt sick to my stomach. Now it’s not as hard,” she explains.
Another student who continued to participate this year is Erick. Before joining the group last year, Erick wanted to study technical and industrial drawing. Now, his dream is to graduate as a teacher and continue to give talks to youth. He wants to replicate Common Hope’s youth programs and have spaces for youth to go where they have positive and healthy activities like cooking, music, and sports. He has already taken the initiative to lead a cooking group on Thursday afternoons. Erick credits the youth leadership group for bringing him out of his shell. He says, “When I started coming to youth groups, I opened up more. At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to get up an speak in front of the group, but they’ve taught us how to handle it when we got confused, how to be dynamic when we speak, and how to handle big groups. I’ve learned a lot.”
The youth leaders don’t have everything figured out, of course. Like their peers, they too struggle with passing classes, dealing with family issues, and staying on the path to graduation. But their own challenges only strengthen their influence on their peers.
The group facilitator Teresa, says that the group constantly encourages each other. “There’s something about hearing the advice from someone who is the same age, from the same place. There’s more trust and a better understanding,” she says.
We anticipate that the program will continue to grow and thrive thanks to leaders who encourage their peers to join, and also thanks to supporters like you. Your support makes it possible for this year’s 21 youth leaders, students like Dulce and Erick, to continue to strive for their dreams.
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