MassSTAR 2016: Sunday Recap

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Sunday at MassSTAR is a time for reflection, but also for looking to the future! On Sunday, our newly inducted MYL Foundation alumni spent time thinking and planning for what their futures might hold.

What’s Next Panel

A diverse panel speakers sat down and opened up for a Q&A about life after high school, and all the different paths open to our delegates. The panelists included two MYL alumni, Summer Moukalled (MYL’06) and Giulia Ensing (MYL’13), plus Alex Vanscoy, a law student and US military veteran; and Jill Reitzell, from Lasell College Admissions. The panelists spoke on steps for success, ways to overcome challenges, and shared stories of their experiences. Our favorite question: “How do you define greatness?”

Gratitude in Action

Reinforcing the theme of respect, responsibility, and initiative, the delegates spent time writing messages of gratitude to all of the donors, sponsors, and supporters of the MassSTAR conference.

Regional Action Planning

Delegates split up by region to begin developing projects they can work on together to make a difference in their communities. Delegates discussed issues that face their communities, and began planning all kinds of service projects. Some topics that were brought up include homelessness, tolerance in schools, special education – and so, so many more.

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Closing Ceremonies

We marched into DeWitt Hall at Lasell with our spirits high! We first heard from three tremendous speakers. First up was Erica Ferrell, who so generously ran the Boston Marathon as a charity runner and raised over $5500 for MassSTAR 2016 – Erica reinforced that so many things are possible with passion and a support system. Then, representatives from the Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs of Massachusetts presented the inaugural Marta DiBenedetto Leadership Scholarship to Michaelah Nunes (MYL ’14).

Finally, we heard from our closing keynote speaker, Corey DePina, Youth Development and Performance Manager at ZUMIX, who delivered an OUTSTANDING speech about focus, perseverance, and movement.

To close out the day, we heard from one delegate from each of our groups, reporting on how they and their group experienced the weekend. Emotions ran high and all of the delegates shared their appreciation for one another, for the weekend, and shared ideas for what might come next!

We are so proud and pleased to have spent the weekend with [95] passionate, driven, and persistent young leaders. We have no doubt they will rise to the challenge and make huge waves in their communities, in their schools, and in the world. Thank you, MassSTAR 2016!

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MassSTAR 2016: Saturday Recap

Whew – another powerful day at MassSTAR! Saturday Delegates and staff woke up sleepy but refreshed after a long, productive Friday and headed to breakfast ready for whatever else the Conference was going to throw at them! Which was a good thing, because…

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Building Blocks of Effective Communication

… delegates spent the next hour running back and forth, trying to replicate a Lego structure through word-of-mouth. Facilitated by Gabby Perez and Jenna Brink, two new additions to the MYL family in 2016, this workshop challenged delegates to think about the ways they communicate with others in all ways. The delegates were split up into observers, runners, and builders, and each had an important role in the creation of the final structures. Afterwards, there was much discussion about what happens in situations where not everyone has the same information available to them.

Community Service Fair

During lunch, representatives from several Massachusetts organizations joined us for a community service fair, where delegates could learn about volunteer and service opportunities available to them! Organizations in attendance included City Year Boston, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Massachusetts, and, of course, the MYL Foundation Alumni Association and Empowered Citizen Grants team!

Service Project: Birthday in a Box

Every year, MassSTAR delegates complete a community service project in support of a Massachusetts nonprofit. This year we were pleased to again partner with Birthday Wishes, assembling boxes for their Birthday in a Box program. Guests from the Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs of Massachusetts attended – and even helped wrap a few boxes!

Take a Stand

Director of Programming Cayla Barbour (MYL’09) and MYL Foundation Director of Communications Colleen Myers (MYL’01) led the delegates through an intense process of making decisions and defending their point of view. Delegates learned that the choices they make matter, about the value of compromise, and spent time afterwards discussing what it means to… well, take a stand.

Operation: Egg Drop

Delegates worked in their groups to create a contraption to protect an egg when dropped from a tall ladder. They also had to create a commercial advertising their contraption – which led to a LOT of eggcellent egg puns. Like, a lot of puns. So many. We ain’t yolkin’.

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Delegates rang in the end of the day with a celebratory dance! And at the end, we welcomed the 2016 delegates into the MYL Foundation family officially in the traditional way – a dance party set to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’!

Final Debrief

In typical MassSTAR fashion, we ended Saturday night sitting in a circle, sharing experiences, takeaways, and responses to the weekend. So many delegates expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet, learn from, and grow with one another.

We walked back to the dorms in silence to reflect, and prepare for one more day!

MassSTAR 2016: Friday Recap

Well, it’s official — Day One of the 2016 MassSTAR Citizenship Conference is in the books! We had a blast getting to meet all of this year’s delegates this morning. Thank you to all of the families and supporters who helped with transportation to Lasell College. We know that many of you had a long drive, and we’re so glad you could join us! We’ll be posting nightly recaps of our day’s adventures, so join us as we relive today’s schedule.

Confluence
We don’t mess around — there’s no time like the present to start getting to know each other. Confluence is a grand MassSTAR tradition; it’s how we kickstart every conference, and it always gets us started on a high note.

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Keynote Speaker: Ashley Bendiksen
Ashley Bendiksen opened our programming by speaking with our delegates about overcoming adversity and looking inward to discover their inner leaders. “If you change your mindset to a positive one, if you believe you can do anything, all the other stuff will fall into place.” With Ashley’s help, we established the mental baseline from which to approach our growth throughout the rest of the weekend.

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Walk the Line
Our Director of Alumni Relations, Alex Gomez (MYL’10), led our first workshop of the weekend. Walk the Line helps our delegates to learn more about each other while preserving a safe space. Through the comfort of anonymity, delegates shared their honest feelings about their communities, their experiences, and their histories. During the debrief, Meg Geslin of Brockton High School shared the following observation: “I hope that we can look back and be proud of the world we made with each other.”

She Sells Sea Shells
Director of Programming Cayla Barbour (MYL’09) led our next workshop, which helped our delegates to explore their personal leadership styles. Each group was challenged to determine the number of seashells in a jar, and to negotiate with their peers to arrive at a group guess. In addition to building their communication skills, this workshop helped our delegates to address their reactions to situations with an uncertain answer. (And no — we still won’t tell you how many shells are in the jar.)

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Exploring the Communities We Build: The Ice Cream Game
The first rule of the ice cream game: you never talk about the ice cream game! Veteran facilitator Rosette Cataldo (MYL’87) leads this program every year. Delegates are challenged to share what they see — and learn just as much from everything they don’t see along the way.

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Vocal Revolution
To close out our first day, we explored making a new type of waves — this time, sound waves. Our delegates joined with local a cappella group Vocal Revolution to learn about how our voices can combine to create a sound that is greater than the sum of its part.

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Stay tuned tomorrow for another update!

MassSTAR 2016: Meet the Staff (PT. 1)

Our outstanding volunteer staff is hard at work getting our 2016 MassSTAR Citizenship Conference ready – in two weeks, 100+ delegates will arrive at Lasell College in Newton, MA for an unforgettable weekend.

Check out the video below to meet some of the people who volunteer their time to make it happen – which also proves that we play as hard as we work!

MYL in Action: National History Day at Braintree High

lilyblog1by Lily Tang (MYL ’15)

As one of the recipients for the MYL Foundation’s Grant program, I have had the opportunity to pursue my goal for my school. My project is to bring National History Day into my school.

National History Day, or NHD for short, is a yearlong research project and history contest similar to science fair. In 1974, a history professor created NHD because he wanted to provide students with a different, more engaging, way to study and comprehend history- we can all agree that sometimes textbooks just drain all the life out of a subject. Today NHD has affiliations in all 50 states and internationally, too. Each year over half a million students, compete in the Regional, State and National level. NHD allows students to present their projects in different forms such as creating an exhibit, website, documentary, paper or as a performance.

Last year I worked with my school’s Director of Social Studies in order to create the History Club. I was able to recruit four other students to compete in NHD. Our team won first place in the South Shore Regional Contest and placed Honorable Mention in States. This year my goal was to expand the club by promoting it more and making students more aware that this opportunity exists. In addition to the publicity aspect of the club, I had to come up with a way to fund it. The cost of registration and the busses was a huge problem, as I did not want money to prevent students from participating in NHD. As such, I applied for the MYL Foundation’s Grant program.

This year our numbers have doubled and we had 10 participants in the club, and submitted 3 projects: 2 exhibit and 1 website. The Grant program made this year possible because it helped covered the registration cost for the Regional contest. Thanks to the MYL Foundation, our school succeed in the competition- our teams placed 1st and 3rd! It has been an amazing and fulfilling experience for me because first time NHD participants after the contest had came up to me and told me that it was “really fun” and that they would definitely continue it next year!

I am so grateful to the Grant program for giving me this opportunity to spread my love for history to others and to inspire them to create something amazing, too!

MYL in Action: The Power of Change Project

7939429_origBy Christi Lee (MYL ’15)

At the 2015 MassSTAR Citizenship Conference, I learned the importance of becoming a leader in my community to affect change. I returned home and wondered how I might promote social action in my hometown. First, I needed a cause to champion.

The issue of chil
dhood hunger has always left a poignant impression on me. Cooking is my hobby and passion, so I am never without food. I am always thinking about the next meal: what to prepare, how to present it, and how it will taste. For many of us, because we have never been without food, it is difficult imagining the pangs, weakness, and diminished mental capacity associated with hunger. When we envision hunger, we see faces in famine-stricken third world countries. Few of us recognize that hunger happens in our own neighborhoods. Realizing that we need to increase awareness of domestic hunger, I knew I had found my mission: a service initiative that would easily heighten awareness of hunger and be quickly impactful. Unlike cancer or natural-disaster victims, domestic hunger is invisible. Those who suffer from hunger hide it as they are too ashamed to seek help. With only spare change, we can immediately make an impact on the fight against hunger: one dollar provides three meals. No need to wait years for medical research to find a cure or raise thousands of dollars to provide emergency aid. MassSTAR urged delegates to step-up in their communities, and with the support of an MYL Citizenship Grant, I answered the call by taking action with my Power of Change project.

5566113_origPower of Change engages students to challenge others via social media to experience hunger by fasting for one day or alternatively, donating 50¢ (or more) to local food banks. To date, the campaign has raised almost $5,000 via collection of spare change, in-kind donations and grants. My website at http://www.power-of-change.weebly.com and Facebook page describe the fundraising fun. As a cross-community movement, Power of Change has the ability to collect a sizable amount while educating many youths about hunger statistics: 1 in 9 people in Eastern Massachusetts is food insecure and 125,000 children are at risk (across the US, nearly 17 million children are at risk of hunger). Students see the ‘power of change’ as each coin they give feeds hungry families. Teens can be proud that they have made a valuable contribution and enabled social change.

Putting my ideas into action was a daunting task, but the results have been rewarding: not only is there mass participation by teens across the state in supporting hunger, but also so many of us are learning how to become social activists. To launch Power of Change in schools other than my own, I leveraged my social network and reached out to MYL alumni delegates too. I asked for help in bringing Power of Change to their schools. Together, we proved that teens can make a difference. A little change goes a long way as Power of Change provides almost 15,000 meals from youth support. I urge all students to inspire change in our communities. Take the skills that you acquire at MassSTAR, identify a cause, apply for an MYL grant and become citizen-leaders!

[ VISIT THE POWER OF CHANGE ONLINE: website | facebook ]

MYL in Action: ProjectNextGeneration.com

By Katie Curran (MYL ’14)

I started Project Next Generation with a burning desire to make a difference in the world.  I wanted to promote diversity and a global outlook in my community.  The organization began with the power of people motivated to change the world for the better.  As a social entrepreneur, I wanted to invest in my generation.  

My biggest advice to young people is that you are never too young to create change.  No excuses!  Leading Project Next Generation has been the most inspiring and rewarding experience of my life.  PNG means a lot to me because I promote cross-cultural understanding and collaborate with fascinating individuals.  

One of the best feelings is receiving positive reinforcement.  I am thankful for MassSTAR and the Massachusetts Youth Leadership Foundation for their constant source of encouragement.  When I hear positive feedback about my service, I feel energized.  When I was 15, I completed an exchange in Copenhagen, Denmark.  When my Danish family sends warm wishes, I know that my work is amplifying the youth voice worldwide!  Share with others the work you are doing.  Be proud and bold!  

PNG has allowed me to see the world from a unique perspective.  In February 2016, I traveled to the United Arab Emirates.  I met young world changers from over 50 countries.  I am so thankful for the meaningful conversations I had with high school students from Vietnam to Bosnia.  As I climbed sand dunes, rode a camel and visited a mosque in the UAE, I found myself appreciating every cross-cultural encounter.  Moreover, I represented my organization in Davos, Switzerland, home of the World Economic Forum.  It was especially empowering to discuss youth engagement right where international policy makers convene to address the world’s most pressing issues.  

A large component of Project Next Generation is advocacy.  I share my work with international leaders to encourage the inclusion of youth in government.  In 2013, I met President Bill Clinton and spoke with Chelsea Clinton about global health and youth engagement.  Three years later, I found myself crossing paths with the Clinton family again during the 2016 New Hampshire Primary.  I spoke with Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton.  I shared my goal to run for public office one day with Hillary Clinton and she replied, “I hope to break the glass ceiling for you!”  This moment of empowerment reaffirmed that no matter what obstacles come my way, I will never stop dreaming and achieving.  

Community service and volunteerism are integral to who I am.  I find meaning making a difference in the lives of others.  I cannot wait to see where Project Next Generation will be next as it grows and explores the world around us!  

[ VISIT PROJECTNEXTGENERATION ONLINE: website | facebook ]