An inspired youth leader now inspires others
Story by Kalisha Davis, Thrive Foundation for Youth
Nineteen-year-old Vianeli Garcia, a student at Monroe College in Bronx, New York, will tell you that she has many goals for the future.
One of them is to become the president of World Vision, the humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
As an alumnus of World Vision's Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), a member of its National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC), and a facilitator of the YEP program in New York's Washington Heights community, she's well on her way.
"I got involved because of the opportunities available. It's always fun, and once you finish you want to go back," she says. "The issues [impacting communities] are never ending anyway. You always want to work with World Vision. I always learn something different."
This year, Garcia and the rest of her NYAC cohort were introduced to the Thrive Foundation for Youth's four-part framework. (See sidebar for details.) They are now examining how goal-setting, self-reflection, and pursuing their "sparks" can help them become better leaders in their communities and advocates for positive change.
"We talked about our sparks, what we excel in, and our goals that are stretching and realistic. I thought it was really interesting," Garcia says. She had fun in two interactive activities called the Spaceship and the Human Survey that helped young people with their goal management and self-reflection skills, "but I really enjoyed the self-evaluation. I saw all these things that I have worked on for the past year and my progress."
What Garcia learned in NYAC has inspired her to consider how these ideas might help the youth members of her YEP affiliate in Washington Heights. "I like how the activities helped you see yourself. I thought [the youth] should be thinking about these things, too," she says. "I asked for the materials so that I could share it with them."
Within the first two weeks of the YEP affiliate's launch, Garcia replicated one of the lessons that she experienced in NYAC and taught the group about goal-setting. She also guided them to use a series of self-reflection tools, called Growth Grids, which are designed to help youth determine the level of initiative and skill they need to apply to accomplish their short- and long-term goals.
"The [Growth Grids] were fun," says Garcia. "The [YEP members] realized how certain issues require help from other people. One [of the participants] told me how it helped him see some of the things that he is slacking on. He understands how he needs to take more initiative and be the leader."
Garcia says that what she is learning and what she's shared with her YEP members are lessons that can help them well into the future. "The best part of the Thrive training is the movement that goes on, and how simple activities like the Spaceship and the Growth Grids can say a lot about someone," she says.
"It was awesome for them to see their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses throughout this training. I loved it, and they did, too. I decided to do it so early on because I wanted them to see their leadership skills and how they can improve. It is important for them to see their worth and how much they need to change in themselves to impact the community around them."