In 2019, CYL was provided with a tremendous opportunity to carry on the legacy of the Think Like a Genius® Challenge, started by Eric Siler with the curriculum created by his brother Todd Siler. We were unable to run the Challenge in 2020 but it’s back in 2021! CYL’s Youth Advisory Board created the focal question for teams of youth from non-profit organizations around Denver to create youth-led solutions to address the social inequities that have become more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic focusing specifically on racial, health and education inequities. Read on to hear about CYL’s first Think Like a Genius® Challenge Kickoff!
Excitement and energy filled the air as our six Think Like a Genius® teams and volunteers walked through the front doors of the History Colorado Center at the end of June for CYL’s Think Like a Genius® Summer Challenge Kickoff! Our teams of youth from Project PAVE, Girl’s Inc, Johnson Boys and Girls Club, Douglas County Healthy Youth Coalition, and City of Lone Tree Teen Court were pumped and ready to jump into driving change in social inequities.
To start the day, the room was buzzing with anticipation that was only amplified by an inspiring speech delivered from the incredible Ananda Birungi, the 2020 CiviCO Emerging Leader Governor’s Citizenship Medal winner, as she shared about her experience managing the education system as an immigrant. Teams jumped into the opportunity to work together while learning about themselves, their teammates, and their unique goals in workshops designed to increase comfort levels and team communication.
One of the workshops, led by two CYL alumni, allowed teams to explore the What’s your Story? exhibit to identify their unique leadership strengths and how to work together as a team. During this workshop, team members were able to be vulnerable with each other while starting to break down and learn support systems to overcome some of the roadblocks that they might encounter during the Challenge. Another workshop supported teams in being able to start identifying root causes of their topic and learn how to think critically about issues. Additionally, teens talked with each other about some of their fears and how to ask for help when they are out of their comfort zones.
Gathering back together for some team building, it was then that the team members were starting to understand how the challenge could create a strong community and move toward a brighter future. Each and every team member was fully diving into action in their own unique ways, and forward together as a unified team.
Then it was time to fully dive into answering the focal question of “What efforts can youth lead to address social inequities that have become more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic?” Incredible community resource organizations and adult team advisors and mentors joined the groups in the afternoon for a brainstorm and building session where they were able to start developing a solution goal to the focal question and plan while creating a 3D symbolic model of their solution idea. Hot glue guns, popsicle sticks, clay, and a whole lot of creativity went into developing these incredible models and solution ideas that are going to be implemented in the next 7 weeks in their communities.
We are so excited to watch and learn from these incredible groups of young leaders and support them along their journey before they present their actions to our panel of judges on August 14th in CYL’s 2021 Think Like a Genius® Challenge! To learn more about the Think Like a Genius® Challenge, go here.