Redefining what leadership means

Colorado Young Leaders (CYL) has been the most impactful organization in my life. It’s redefined volunteerism and service for me as a place in which I could be a leader and through which I could develop myself and my leadership abilities rather than simply serving for a good cause. By turning volunteering into something focused on developing leadership and passions, CYL encourages me to look within myself and consider my skills, talents, and areas for growth so that I could improve, grow, and lead in the most effective style for myself. CYL redefines leadership as something that is accessible to everyone once you know your own strengths. They also present leadership as a personal value, something that can always be worked on and something that can grow even in moments when you aren’t in charge. Through CYL I’ve been able to help with adaptive snowboarding, been an environmental steward, serve at a food kitchen, create projects around mental health, and explore so many areas of service that made me feel more passionate about helping the world in every way. CYL’s uniquely exploratory approach to service and leadership also allowed me to hone in on my passion of helping teens with mental health issues. 

Being involved in CYL throughout my high school career has increased my confidence step by step. My first year, I worked in a small group of people to host a mental health event field day on Earth Day with several guest speakers. The next year, I was able to help plan Base Camp, a youth-led leadership conference, and organize a charity 5k run with my CYL Chapter. The year after that, I once more helped with Base Camp and launched my first solo project, advocating for people to paint kindness rocks and spread them around their neighborhood during the start of COVID-19. Now in my senior year of high school, I am able to work with my CYL mentor to secure a $500 grant to make art supply kits to distribute, along with mental health resources, to teens in need around the Denver area. I never could have imagined writing and receiving a grant when I first joined Colorado Young Leaders, but their support through my journey of developing leadership was invaluable and allowed me to grow to this point. Going into the future as a college student and young adult, I feel very confident in my ability to make positive change in the world because of Colorado Young Leaders. 

I feel confident in the change I can make in the future because of the change I have made while in high school. Colorado Young Leaders is a special organization to me because while every high school senior learns something in completing their mandatory service hours, CYL is unique in making each individual feel that they have the power to make change in areas they are passionate about and extending a feeling of leadership and personal agency to teens in a way that goes beyond the reach of traditional service in high school. Being in CYL has shown me first hand the impact that high schoolers can have as I’ve been able to see the impact I make and that of my peers within the program. Seeing all my fellow leaders pursue their passions and accomplish their dreams is just one more thing I love about Colorado Young Leaders. All in all, CYL has been a wonderful organization that has changed my life dramatically and I am forever grateful to them for believing in teens like myself even before we did.

– Lillian D, CYL ’21 –

December 15, 2020