Youth LEADOKCasady

New Address for Youth LEAD OKC

Mercy School Institute and Youth LEADOKC Mercy invited the OKC community to consider attending an interactive workshop about Hijab at the 5600 NW 122 NW Library, Conference Room B, 3:00 PM-5:30 PM on Saturday, February 1, 2014. To RSVP contact 405-606-3580 or email:

Nazma Khan tells us about the persecution she faced due to her hijab and why she started World Hijab Day


 The World Hijab Day celebration at the public library was a success.  There were inspirational and educational speeches, insightful poetry,  beautiful hijabs to try on and delicious snacks.

Planning Committee Meeting: Irma's, 4:30, January 20, MLK Day. 

Present:  Full planning team (Anaya, Dane, Hunter, Yogaish), Mentors (Shannon, Jack, Carmen(late) 

The tentative agenda for the February meeting includes the following.  Shannon was going to consult with Tabitha regarding activities to facilitate the agenda interactively.  Shannon also encouraged teen members of the planning team to explore creating their own.  There was a tentative designation of facilitation, subject to change according to what teen members welcome for their personal contribution to the main meeting.  YLOKC February Meeting, Sunday, February 2, Super Bowl Sunday, 2-4???, Location TBA.  Shannon is considering change of time or date for this meeting.

-Welcome/Ice Breaker  
-Listening Activity
-Producing a Calendar of projects and meetings that will include goals
-Project Management activity

JANUARY 12, 2-4 @ YMCA Corporate Office, basement conference room, 500 N. Broadway, Downtown OKC for complete minutes and forms join Edmodo YLOKC @

Youth Lead OKC minutes, January 12,2014, YMCA Corporate Headquarters
Cookies by Shannon. 
Planning team met from 1:30 to 2:00 to finalize details. 

Minutes by Aubrey and Carmen
Participants (21)
Casady: Taylor B, Sidney J. Seondre C. Natasha S., Gavin C. Carmen C., Aubrey H., Anaya B., Jack T. Late: Jack B. Hunter S.
Heritage: Sam K, Demi D
Merci: Institute A.R., Late: Buthiana J., Lina K. (OU), Rami Abdelhadi (Welcome)
Edmond Santa Fe: Sirenee K
Interfaith Alliance: Jac K,
Putnam City West: Iletze Porras
YMCA: Shannon P.
Happy January B-days: Sophie (1/15), Ananya (1/20) and Sirenee (1/30)

Agenda and Minutes
Welcome:  Icebreaker by Yogaish   Interesting thing since the last time we were together
Interfaith Alliance Service Day at Food Bank, Saturday, January 18.  Sign-up at Food Bank or Interfaith Alliance
Casady Service-Learning MLK Day @ Food Bank, Monday, January 20.  Sign-up and details at

Who Am I Activity by Ananya  
Goal: Getting re-acquainted, introducing and/or sharing creatively.  Practicing facilitation skills of YLOKC version of YL Poem provided at TIDE 2011. Good active participation

 Who is Youth Lead OKC by Dane
Goal; Share what YLOKC means for everyone in a creative  way.  Provide information about who and what is Youth LEAD OKC  to new members.  Goal accomplished WOW!!!

4 Groups, 4 Examples

Informing the next generation
Making a better future
Understanding our own community
Identifying who you are
Against racism, segregation and clicks
Eradicating poverty
Equality, compassion, open  minded
Stop bullying
Kindness, thoughtfulness, being helpful
Destroys stereotypes
New, improvement,
Stop Hunger
Uniting kindness
Olive branch
Symbolize peace
Supports love and grows
A tree
Provides oxygen  and life, creates habitats
A rock
Diverse cultures
Public Speaking/ Confidence
Engaging across differences
Learn about other religions
Have the same goal
Open minded
More people have the same goals
The needs in our community
Catholic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim
Way of life
Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Methodist, Athiesm
Culture is the foundation of the group
Muslim, Catholic, Christian, Hindu, non-believers, Jewish, White, Hispanic
Diversity of backgrounds
Catholic, Jewish, Atheist, Christian, Islamic
Cultural Diversity
Skittles, cookies, Take-out
Became closer
Chinese, pizza, and tacos
YL Training day
Getting to know people
Cookies, pizza, water
Cookies, tacos
Training with Tabitha
Playing games
Make a difference
To grow and make a difference
A group that actually helps the community come together

Holding events

Hot Topics -4-Projects: Yogaish and Iletze: 
Goal: Get concrete and doable topics for projects that follow YLOKC mission

 Hot Topics chosen:  City Divided United by YLOKC  (Sam K)
Hot Topic
Group 1: Economics: Homeless
Group 2:
LGBT and stereotypes
Group 3:
Faith or lack of

Film/Documentary at the Myriad
Spreading Awareness (The Help, From Homeless to Harvard)

Meals by Teens
(diverse backgrounds)

Services from organizations connected by YLOKC.  Connect to :
Homeless Alliance
Love OKC
Positive Tomorrows
AT Boys and Girls  Club: Facilitate diversity workshops, open minds, discussions, ask questions


Deadline for completion of project: A couple of months
Jack B. has contact information of Club director.

Participate in Pride Parade
Interfaith carnival with games, music, religious food, and speakers

Age Group:  k-12 school or Boys and Girls Club

Connecting organizations: Interfaith Alliance, youth groups, Oklahoma Conference of Churches: Teen Interfaith Tour
As we revisited areas of projects for the December meeting, the Art Council project seemed to connect all these there projects together! 

Debriefing and feedback by Hunter.  
Vulture analogy:  Take what you need, absorb it and use it to become a better facilitator and person.
Goal: Self and peer evaluation for improvement

Planning Committee First Meeting, Panera, 1/6/2014, 5:30-6:30

Casady: Anaya, Yogaish, Hunter, Carmen
Putnam City: Illetze
Douglas: Dane
Interfaith Alliance: Jack
YMCA: Shanon

Planning Meeting Job Description and application sent by Shannon via e-mail were January 2nd.  After applications are accepted, parents and planning meeting team will sign agreement.  Details from SPresti@ymcaokc.orgMinutes and forms at Edmodo Account.  Join Edmodo YLOKC @


Shannon and the Y:  Thank you  for a delicious dinner

YLOKCPC, ARIGATO for creating a thoughtful agenda for our next meeting. 

Please consider a/b for the announcements section of the meeting

Invitations for Service Days at the Food Bank!! 
a. Saturday, January 18: Interfaith Alliance Service Day.  Register at Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma website
b. Monday, January 20: Casady Service-Learning MLK Day @ the Food Bank.  Sign-up at . 18+Register at the Food Bank Website  Minors need to bring parental pe

Interesting resource for group work and project management

Attached find the template of the activity, I am from and the compilation I made long time ago.

For the debriefing and feedback part of the meeting, this tidbit from Tabitha could be helpful!

Take what you need, absorb it and use it to become a better facilitator and person.

Take what you don’t need and leave it by the side of the road, don’t carry it with you


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Special Christmas Reflection from YMCA NYC Global Youth.  See it @
  1.  December 1st 2-4 @ YMCA Corporate Headquarters

Exchange Cultural Differences and Similarities during Holidays
Holiday Multicultural Party
Dirty Santa Exchange
Facilitators: Hunter, Sidney, Natasha, Yogaish, and Shannon.  Hunter helped set-up and Sidney and Hunter in collaboration with Shannon met at Casady for two hours to plan the meeting 
Planning Committee:  Sidney, Hunter, Shannon
Heritage Hall: Sam K
Casady School: Aubrey H., Yogaish K., Natasha S., Gavin C., Hunter, Sidney
Classen Arts  Sophie T.
Bethany High School: Trevor Z
YMCA: Shannon P.
Interfaith Alliance: Jack
Mercy School Institute: Buthiana, Ali, Ali's  sister, a visitor, Buthiana's daughters

How do you celebrate the holiday season game? (Sidney: Happy B-Day: Sweet 17 in December)
Goals: Building Relationships, understanding differences
Objective: Teen facilitation of culturally enhancing game created by teens for teens
Activity: Cards for personal explanations.  Family dish shared with explanation
Teens shared the type of food and reasoning for bringing the food to share. Separated in mixed groups based on traditions, shared more in-depth while enjoying a variety of foods  Excellent Job Sidney!

Planning Committee Idea Proposal (Shannon)
Goal: Teen ownership of agenda
Objective: Focused, proactive meetings with a tentative calendar of actions
Activity: Shannon will send out the application via email .  Any interested student can apply. She will also send out a text to each student letting them know the email has been sent. The student selections will be chosen before the January 12th meeting

Storm Shelter Debate: Reflection and Feedback (Natasha)
Goal: Inform
Objective: Debrief, assess for improvement
Activity: Great discussion(?). Natasha facilitated like a pro

Next Steps:  Group Passions Serving Community (Yogaish)
Goal: Teen ownership of areas of service
Objective: YLOC working as a passionate entrepreneurial team
Activity: Each teen called out general topic areas where they would like to help. Six topics (?) were placed on flip chart paper and placed around the room. Each teen walked around and wrote specific ideas they had for community service projects in that area. Then every student walked around and put a tally on their favorite idea. We will share the top six ideas at the January meeting and decide on how many projects we will complete for the spring (based on size and scope of the project(s) selected.  Amazing facilitation by Yogaish

Dirty Santa Game:  (Hunter).  Gifts less than $10
Goal: Have Fun
Objective: Build Relationship
Activity: Gift Exchange
Fun had by all.  Great job Hunter!

Meeting Debriefing:  (Sam)
Sam K. asked to debrief .  Sam K., Sophie, Shannon, Jack and Buthania debriefed (?) and decided to meet the 2nd Sunday in January rather than the 1st Sunday due to the holiday.  January 12th!!!!, 2-4 at ?   Thank you Sam for keeping us true to the YL Process!!!

We missed all who were not present. Wishing you all a wonderful December

Welcome and Introduction by Sidney J.'15
Moderator: Natasha S.'.15

Youth LEAD OKC participants
Hunter S. Seondre C.  Carmen C. (Casady)., Sam K., (HH) Dane N. and Family, Matt T. (Douglas High School) ,  A.R. Tolub (Mercy School Institute), Shannon P. (YMCA), Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Spicer

Storm Shelters debate memories

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Final Planning of Debate/Town Hall-Safe Rooms and Storm Shelters of Oklahoma Public School
Expected Youth Lead Attendance
Deaires (Flyer-Set-Up), Sidney (Welcone and Introducion), Natasha (Moderator), Hunter, Sam, Carmen, Shannon, Seondre.  Representative Doorman and Senator Shortey

Debate over allocation of money.

November 3 Meeting at Heritage Hall, 2-4

Connect to HH
Finalize Tornado Debate
Find HH perceptions
Share HH history and present:  HH Motto
Feedback to Deaires flyer
1. Perception sharing: Sam, Demi with whole group
2. Announcements: Natasha, Hunter
3. Cookie and water break: Shannon
4. Feedback of Tornado flyer: All participants divided into groups
5. Debrief of meeting

Casady: Seondre, Hunter, Sidney, Taylor, Carleigh (left early), Gavin (left early), Johnny, Jack T., Jack B., Natasha S. Mentor: Carmen
Classen: Sophie
Centennial: Anika
Douglas: Dane (an hour late). Mentor: Matt
HH: Sam, Demi
Mercy:  Mentor: AR
YMCA: Mentor: Shannon
Interfaith Foundation of Oklahoma: Mentor: Jack

YLead OKCasady collaborates in discussion of Acts of Faith, Faith based bullying, and haiku poetry solutions


Youth LEAD OKC training in different kind of facilitation

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Westmoore High School: Deaires
Putnam City West High School: Iletze
Mercy School Institute: Sereen, Buthiana, AR (came an hour late)
Edmond Santa Fe High School: Sirenee
Casady High School: Jack B (left an hour early), Carleigh (left an hour early), Ananya, Taylor, Seondre (came at 4:00 PM), Gavin (left an hour early), Aubrey, Sidney, Johnny, Natasha, Hunter, Carmen
YMCA: Shannon
Interfaith Alliance Foundation: Jack
Youth LEAD Online: Tabitha

Make a Difference Day Project of the Casady Service Learning Program in collaboration with the YMCA Sunday, October 27, 1:00 - 6:00 PM Teen Training @ Casady Wing

Goal:  To learn to facilitate workshops and presentations

Speak comfortably in front of a group.
Give and receive feedback in a self-affirming way
Lead small group discussions
Explaining and managing ground rules
Conduct thoughtful and meaningful debriefs to activities

YLOKC Adult and Teens First Training: Communication and Project Management

Waiting for the teens to arrive!


Topic: A Different Kind of Conversation

Goal: To learn new ways to respectfully engage in difficult conversations

· Learn how to craft questions
· Learn how to replace judgment with curiosity
· Practice using these tools with “real life” examples
·Explore the role of questions in communicating across difference

Casady: Johnny L., Carmen Clay (
Douglas High School: Matt Tilley (
Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma City: Jack Knight (
Mercy School Institute:  Buthiana Jwayyed (
OCCC: Darbey Johnson (, Nate Vandenbrook (
Youth LEAD Online: Tabitha May-Tolub (
YWCA: Rebecca Rester (; Cree Gaithright ( Shannon Presti (; Tammy Coffee (

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Good listening connected to the art and science of a different type of questions 

How will we use what we learned in our professional environments?
-Share it, in collaboration with Johnny, @ YAC and Youth LEAD OKC meetings, one activity at a time. 
-Have workshops during MLK Day in collaboration with the Respect Diversity Foundation - if no other project is sponsored by YAC this year.
-Apply to present a couple of the activities to the UCO Multicultural institute in March Carmen
November Project:  Tornado Shelters for Oklahoma School: Point and Counter Point

Youth LEADERS planning Town Hall and Debate

November 17, 1:00 - 3:00 PM @ TBA
   Debate between Senator Ralph Shorty and Representative Joe Doorman
· Introduction by Youth Lead OKC present: Volunteers needed???
· Moderator of the Debate, Youth LEADer: DeAires
· Other youth leaders in the audience. Every youth leader with 20 people from their schools.


November Meeting Project:  Douglas High School Overcomes stereotypes; creates a service club



September Project: Kids Carnival and School Supplies Give Away on Peace Day @ Boys and Girls Club



Interfaith Youth Tour Facilitators of Reflection and Presenters





Breaking Fast during Ramadan: Being a Muslim Teen in America and OKC


Field of Teams: Tornado Relief









June: End of the year celebration...We had our first training, the Blue Sky is the limit for our future
















April 19-21, 2013:
Youth LEAD OKC Trainings @ Wing by Youth LEAD Online Associate Director Tabitha May-Tolub

Tabitha May-Tolub is the Associate Director of Youth LEAD - Youth Leaders Engaging Across Differences. Youth LEAD, which is based near Boston Massachusetts, inspires and mobilizes youth leaders to reflect upon their values and beliefs, connect with others across differences and act together to address local and global challenges.
Tabitha holds degrees in Psychology and Education from Clark University and has been in the field of Youth Development for nearly 20 years. She has received training in the areas of peer mediation, leadership development, facilitation, dialogue facilitation, anti-bias and primary prevention education.
Over the last ten years she has worked in public schools, community-based programs and non-profit organizations specializing in youth leadership development at the middle and high school levels.
Her goal is to help create a new generation of leaders with strong character and exceptional communication skills by empowering youth to strengthen their character and effect change in their communities.
She is here in Oklahoma this weekend to help kick start Youth LEAD OKC in Partnership with the Cassidy School and The YMCA of Oklahoma City. She would like to share a little bit more about her organization and their thoughts on service with you today.
Tabitha's speech for chapel (Not delivered due to flight delays)

Hello,  Thank you all for giving me a few minutes of your time today. I am thrilled to be here in Oklahoma City for the first time. There is truly nothing I love more than a chance to explore a new part of the world and I hope to be back many times after this to watch Youth LEAD OKC grow.
So a little history . . . Youth LEAD (Youth Leaders engaging across differences) started about 12 years ago as Interfaith Action. An important organization, called ADL (Anti-Defamation League) wondered (all great things start with wonder) what would it be like to do interfaith work in a small very diverse suburb. Sharon, MA (where Youth LEAD is based) has nine churches, seven synagogues, houses the Islamic Center of New England, more than 160 Hindu families, as well as a growing number of scientologists, Bahia, Jain, Buddhist, Christian Science families and more.). It is an extraordinarily diverse population for a suburb. 
The adults in charge of this experiment quickly learned that the best way to try something new, and have it be successful, is by pairing the experience of those over 18 with the energy, enthusiasm and passion of those under 18. So that’s how we got started.

Two years ago we changed our name to Youth LEAD. It became clear that our program could be used to open up discussion around all forms of identity – not just faith. We also began supporting amazing youth and adults around the country to do this work. We are connected to programs in Staten Island NY, Orange County California, Jordan , urban and rural MA and now OKC. Which is just so cool!
Why does it work? . . . This weekend kicks off the National Volunteer Week and Global Youth Service Days. Such an important week! You may have noticed that those of us over the age of 18 still have not quite managed to fix the many challenges that our planet faces. In fact some might say . . . we have done a little more damage than good. As part of National Volunteer Week, I advocate for service of any kind that is filled with heart and hard work. We have so many bodies on this planet and so much to do that in some ways I say – “Just do it”. Just get out there and get started and make the world a better place.

However – there are some problems that we just can’t seem to fix, no matter how hard we work. Those issues always seem to stem from the things that are most important to us, the pieces of our identity: race, religion, ethnicity, gender, ability and sexual orientation. When it comes to the pieces of our world that are connected to our identity, our fears, our mistrusts and the ways in which we are polarized get in the way. Elbow grease just is not enough. We need to find a different way to serve.
This is precisely how Youth LEAD hopes to help. For us Service has three equally important parts.
The first is Reflection. Who are we? what do we believe? what baggage and what narratives do we bring with us from our lives and the lives of our families? How do these pieces of our identity form us and inform us? This part is really important because unless we know who we are, where we come from and how that supports and challenges the work we do in the world, it is hard for us to move on from here.
The second part is connection. We need the skills to be able to connect with others who hold very different beliefs than us. Whose stories and experiences give us a very different perspective on the world? If we only surround ourselves with people who look like us, think like us and operate like us we never see the whole picture. We are always missing pieces that are essential as we try to repair the world.
The third is Action. While the first two parts are critical, until all our reflecting and connecting translates into action – it will never get us where we need to go. This Action however needs to be intentional. We need to ask deep questions about what is and is not working and think creatively about why and how to fix it. WE need to take all the information learned in parts one and two and draft it into organized, intentional work. Projects that have a clear vision, committee work that honors product and process, meetings that are focused and where all voices are heard and allowed.
It is our belief that if all three of these parts are in place, our service takes on a whole new level of excellence and we can begin to repair the way we communicate with each other and the way we serve the world.
How do we begin to do this? What skills do we need? We have developed what we call Foundation skills. The great thing about these skills is we have seen over and over how using them can transform our relationships and our community. The bad news, they are super hard to put into practice in our daily lives. Those of us who hold them in the fore front of our minds – still struggle. But like any other skill: riding a bike, hitting a baseball, doing a cartwheel, they can be practiced and we can get better.

YLOKC Adult Mentors Training
We have 10 foundation skills. And I would love to share them all with you today but due to time – you’ll have to join Youth LEAD OKC for that. I asked the youth in Sharon which four are most important to start with. That by the way is the secret to my success. If I don’t know the answer, I ask someone under the age of 18. They gave me these.
1.     Be curious: Seek out people who are different from you and who think differently than you do.  Find out their stories.  Be the person who reaches out to the people that no one else does and listens to their stories.
2.     Be courageous – have the conversation:  When difficulty, uncertainty, and misunderstandings happen, don’t walk away but engage in conversation. Especially when it is hard and uncomfortable, participate in the conversation.  Have the conversation with the person whom you should – not with everyone else.  Be the person who uses open communication over back talking, complaining and gossip. 
3.     Practice deep listening:  Listen and seek understanding.  Give people a chance to finish talking before you respond and give yourself a chance to finish listening before you respond. Enjoy and soak in people’s words, even when they make you uncomfortable or when you disagree.  Be the person who listens, who really hears others.
4.     Value discomfort: Seek out discomfort.  This is the one I am working on right now – because I really don’t like public speaking but we know that being uncomfortable is a clear sign that you and others around you are growing.  Be the person who can move through the discomfort to the other side.
Now, Don’t take my word for it. Try it and see if you get a different response. Try it and see if you begin to see the world in a different way. Try it and see if you are able to begin to work with others who were previously very difficult to work with.
As I said in the beginning . . . all great things begin with wonder. I wonder what the world would be like if people began to ask different kinds of questions. I wonder what the world would be like if we did more listening and less debating. I wonder what the world would be like if we replaced judgment with curiosity. I wonder what you all will do to change the world for the better.
Thank you for your time. I hope I get the chance to talk more with some of you while I am on campus.  Make it a great day!

April 19: Youth LEAD Mentors Module Training: Aim to be a consultant not a leader.  Deep listening, empowering questioning


April 20: Youth LEAD Teen Communication Module Training
Who are we? what do we believe? what baggage and what narratives do we bring with us from our lives and the lives of our families? How do these pieces of our identity form us and inform us?


We need the skills to be able to connect with others who hold very different beliefs than us. Whose stories and experiences give us a very different perspective on the world? 

The tragedy of humanity, does not lie in its misconception, but rather in the lost courses, the screw ups” and the lonely. Born from love, hate is learned. What you find when you visit the attic of your mind scares you. We fake our smiles to hide the fragility of our past. People do NOT change overnight. Do not despair; try not to focus on your failures. We are not meant to go through life, we are meant to GROW through life. To make a lasting impression one must affect and inspire the coming generation. The only way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them entirely. I believe that the first step is to give everyone the right to a good and ample education. Shouldn’t everyone be given opportunity to better progress their lives.  Since  every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.  Do not pray for less rain, but rather pray for a better umbrella.  Ananya, Casady 8th Grader
April 21: Youth LEAD Teen Project Management Module Training
Begin with a goal(essential question) that motivates everyone.
Develop objectives (focus questions)

Develop connected, reflected activities for the objectives. 
Value the process even more than the product. 
Embrace failure and discomfort. 
Practice deep listening and clarifying questions. 
Set workable meetings with well defined agendas (goal, objectives, and activities.)
Check your progress at implementing the core principles in the process to making your goals a reality.

Project planning ended with two projects at brainstorming stage

Boys and Girls Club Connections, with elected project chairs, Jack B. (Casady), Deaires (Westmoore)
Making a difference in the lives of teens in need  (Getting the word out about YLOKC) with elected project chairs, Yogaish K. (Casady) and Gavin C. (Casady)


Take what you need, absorb it and use it to become a better facilitator and person.

Take what you don’t need and leave it by the side of the road, don’t carry it with you

Brief History Of Youth LEAD OKCasady

Youth LEAD OKC was just an opportunity being explored for a diversity/cultural competency/interfaith youth board at the beginning of Sidney J. (Casady High School),  Dane N (Douglas High School), and Sam K (Heritage Hall High School) freshman year.  After Sidney J. and YLOKCasady adult mentor, Carmen C. attended the first Teen Identity and Diversity Education (TIDE) Conference, a for teens, by teens conference at the end of Sidney's sophomore year,  the Youth LEAD OKC teen advisory panel became committed to bringing Youth LEAD OKC as a builder of life skills youth group to Oklahoma City.

YMCA Teen Leadership Initiatives Program provided the financial support and with in-kind collaboration with the Casady School Service-Learning Program, the Respect Diversity Foundation and CAIR connections to Mercy School Institute,  Youth LEAD OKC launched the weekend of  April 19-20 @ with the first training by Youth LEAD Associate Director, Tabitha May-Tolub @ Casady School, as part of the National Volunteer Week activities supported by the Casady Service-Learning Program.

The Oklahoman printed the Youth LEAD story on April 30, 2013! 

YMCA, Local Partners to Launch Youth LEAD Diversity Program
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 17, 2013) Metro teens will soon have to opportunity to address local and global challenges through an organization called Youth LEAD (Leaders Engaging Across Differences).  The diversity education and cultural competency program was established in Sharon, Mass. and will be launched locally as a community collaboration among the YMCA OF GREATER OKLAHOMA CITY, Casady School Service Learning, Mercy School Institute, The Respect Diversity Foundation and the Council on American Islamic Relations.  

“Youth LEAD brings a unique cultural competency program to our community. This youth led initiative empowers teens to communicate effectively about diverse and often difficult topics. The teens use their skills to discuss highly charged issues and foster friendships across differences as they implement service learning projects”, said Shannon Presti, Director of Teen Leadership Initiatives for the YMCA OF GREATER OKLAHOMA CITY.

Youth LEAD Associate Director, Tabitha May-Tolum will train about 25 adult advisors and a diverse group of area high school students to reflect upon their values and beliefs, connect with others across differences and act together to address local and global change during a weekend retreat April 19-21st at Casady School. Moving forward, Youth LEAD communities will use the skills they are taught in the program to inspire and mobilize youth leaders to transform fear, mistrust and polarization into social cohesion and collaborative problem-solving.

The nonprofit organization, established in 2004, has seen much success, according to Youth LEAD Executive Director Janet Penn, including being featured as one of two promising U.S. youth practices in a major study by Harvard’s Pluralism Project.  The study documents the growth of interfaith initiatives across the country and considers the implications of America’s multi-religious reality for citizenship and leadership today and in the future. 

“The Pluralism Project recognized Youth LEAD because of its authentic, youth-leadership model (rather than just talking, they actually plan and facilitate complex events) and their multi-year trainings that give teens critical 21st century skills,” Penn said.  “Unlike many programs or peace camps that bring youth together for one encounter, Youth LEADers spend several years together, running their own meetings and community service projects.” 

The launch of Youth LEAD in Oklahoma City will be the first step in making it a national program.  There is no cost for students or schools to participate in Youth LEAD.  Students must commit to monthly meetings and a few weekend trainings per year.  For more information on Youth LEAD, contact the Y’s Director of Teen Leadership Initiatives, Shannon Presti at 405 297 7728 or

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 Sidney participated in her second TIDE conference in May of her sophomore year, but this time she brought two YLOKC adult mentors, one OKC YMCA Teen Leadership Initiatives teen, and a teen from Richardson Texas.

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