My name is Dakota Kahley and I am a senior at Stafford High School. I have been in Y Street for 4 years and this will be my 3rd year on the Y Street Leadership Team.

Every summer, as leadership team members, we are invited to attend the YSLT Kick Off Summit. At the Summit, we attend workshops that educate us on tobacco and obesity issues, the campaigns for the upcoming year, and how to be professional. These workshops give us the tools to help us be stronger leaders in our schools and communities. My favorite session this year was one called “UZOO,” where we had to number values or personality traits on a scale to find out what our leadership style was. Each style (which related to an animal) highlighted our strengths, motivators for success, and how best we work with others. This session showed us that there are different kinds of leaders based on one’s personality and how we can use each other’s strengths to work together successfully.

In addition to the workshops, we also participate in activities that engage us in our community. This year, we went to G.H. Reid Elementary School and volunteered with Renew Richmond to build a greenhouse so that the students who attend school there can plant and grow fresh fruits and vegetables. It felt so good to go out into the Richmond community and work on a project that would directly help these students, who may live in a food desert, have access to fresh and healthy foods. Every year we also host a networking lunch, where we invite local professionals in to meet us and learn more about Y Street. I really like the networking lunch because even though we are teaching others about Y Street and the work we do, it is also a learning experience for us to hear from professionals who’ve made careers out of working on the same issues that we work on in Y Street.

In the evenings, we took a break from workshops and got the chance to connect through fun activities like Jumpology and mystery escape rooms. They were awesome! Both activities were focused on having fun while helping us build a team in the process. At Jumpology, a few of the members did a ninja-styled ropes course. Rooting for your new friends to succeed against the obstacles was a great activity that helped bring us closer to one another.

Throughout the whole summit though, my favorite activity by far was connecting and sharing ideas with fellow youth activists from across the Commonwealth! Throughout my years on the YSLT, I have made so many friends at these Summits. I’ve even met someone whom I consider to be my best friend here. The opportunity to work at this level and have this experience with her, as well as other amazing youth activists, was and is something that I will never forget!

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