LLYP helps teens find avenues as ambassadors for change
In their quest to become ambassadors for change, teens in the Leadership Lexington Youth Program spent time at God’s Pantry Food Bank, which tweaked their comfort zone. “I’m used to going home to a home-cooked meal. I’m not used to seeing the other side of things,” said Charles Wilson, a junior at Tates Creek High School. A tour of the expansive warehouse operation showed the four dozen students the reality of food scarcity in Fayette and surrounding counties, and they notched hands-on experience in repacking Rice Krispies for distribution to families in need. “Today’s been good to see different ways to effect change, even if you just volunteer a couple of hours a week,” said Zoe Jenkins of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. “It’s important to not just recognize issues in your community, but go out and do what you can. You can rally people to effect change.”
LLYP prepares students through education and interaction as they explore their community and network with local leaders, delving into diverse issues, post-secondary options, career fields, and business opportunities. Meeting on the first Wednesday each month, they touch on various areas such as health and human services, government and public safety, and higher education. One of Zoe’s favorites was visiting the local arts and media scene, while Charles appreciated learning about the myriad jobs in UK HealthCare. “The whole program has opened my mind up,” he said.
On Ambassadors for Change Day, the students also heard from guest speaker Josh Nadzam, co-founder and director of On the Move Art Studio. He talked about using whatever is at one’s disposal to make a positive impact. “We’re all passionate about something, but sometimes the issues we feel passionate about are so overwhelming that we don’t know where to start,” he said. “Instead of trying to solve the entire issue ourselves, what if we each try to impact everything we can touch – our neighborhood, our streets, our social circles.” Nadzam also shared examples of his small, grassroots efforts such as donating shoes worn by UK’s track team.
Drew Rodriguez, a senior at Frederick Douglass High School, spoke earlier about launching the Markey Dine Around, which raised money for the cancer foundation at UK. Drew, who was selected last year by his LLYP peers for the 2019 Distinguished Leader Award, will pass the baton to this spring’s recipient so that the fundraiser becomes an annual event. “What makes it special is the youth leadership component. It’s our biggest advantage,” Drew said. He also referenced sports superstar and philanthropist Kobe Bryant, who recently died in a helicopter accident. “Kobe understood he transcended basketball. He touched people individually and inspired them,” Drew said. “Taking it upon yourself to do what you can inspires other people.”
Overall, LLYP motivates teenagers to think seriously about the role they could play and the difference they can make in Lexington. Drew’s winter project and the February field trip to God’s Pantry were boots-on-the-ground examples. “I hope our generation can help Lexington be a better place,” Charles said, adding, “Don’t be afraid to get involved – even if it’s just helping someone put groceries in their car.”