The experience inspired Maya to join a youth grant-making board in her community and participate in an essay contest sponsored by the Make the Dash Count Foundation. Her winning words provided a grant for Club Friday, a World Vision-supported late-night youth outreach center in Tacoma that serves at-risk adolescents.
In the essay — shown below in its entirety — Maya discusses how she discovered her ability to make a meaningful difference for young people by attending the summit and serving on the youth board.
A year ago, I felt stuck. I was 15 years old, unhappy with the world, and I didn't feel like I could do anything about it. It was around then when I was nominated to participate in a youth advocacy program at Club Friday. I was scared of a lot of things on my first trip to Club Friday, but soon, I started learning. I learned about gentrification and development, about poverty, about social justice. I learned about race and gender and religion. I learned about business and nonprofits and government. Most importantly, I learned that there were many young people who didn't seem like me but who felt like me, and that together, we could get something done. I learned freedom, and I learned hope. At the end of our program, we developed recommendations to improve the lives of youth in Tacoma, flew to Washington, D.C., and presented our work to Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash.
I learned a lot in my work with Club Friday. One of the most powerful lessons was the fact that underneath it all is money. At the end of the day, I realized not only that somebody had to pay for our advisers and our plane tickets, but that most of our recommendations involved a high level of economic awareness and financial support. It became quite obvious that it takes some serious cash to create a healthy community. In one of our discussions on funding, our adviser asked if any of us were interested in serving on a local youth grant-making board. I was quite interested in the role money played in making our community better, so I applied for a position on the Make the DASH Count Foundation's South Sound Youth Board.
I was offered a position on the board last summer. The South Sound Youth Board is made up of a diverse group of teenagers from around the [southern Puget Sound region of Washington state]. We will grant $20,000 this spring to organizations that benefit youth at risk of not fulfilling their potential. A position on the board presented an opportunity for me to help decide which programs in our community would get funding.
As a board member, I am responsible for looking for ways that our grant dollars can make the most impact in our community. At the beginning of the year, we decided to focus our funding on preventing gang violence. Throughout the past couple of months, we have listened to community members who have experience with the role of gangs in our community: a school counselor, a police officer, and a young woman who has managed to avoid participating in gangs by focusing on dance.
>> Please pray for God's blessing on young people like Maya who are working hard to produce positive changes in their communities across the United States. Pray that these adolescents would serve as role models and sources of inspiration for their peers.
>> Donate now to World Vision's U.S. programs.
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