By Grace Chenxin Liu, YAC Member

Recently, we wrapped up the 2023 National Service-Learning Conference and celebrated the National Youth Leadership Council (NYLC)’s 40th birthday! This experience was incredible and impressive in every way. From the number of enthusiastic participants (even leaders from overseas!) and supportive environment on the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), to the astounding work of the NYLC staff and unique storytellers and presenters. There was so much trust and teamwork there, which I felt from the moment I met the NYLC team and YAC all the way to the way we embraced each other when saying our farewells.

I have learned so much from my fellow YAC members there with me—Michelle, Kaleb, Molly, and Rafiel—who are all extremely passionate, hardworking, intelligent, dedicated, thoughtful, and kind individuals. The same can be said for all of the NYLC staff (special thanks to Amy, Anthony, Miranda, and Zahra for guiding us every step along the way) who worked tirelessly to deal with logistics and coordination in order to shine the spotlight on the YAC and other leaders. Everyone supported each other and we created a beautiful learning and growing environment.

During the Conference, I was so honored to be given the opportunity to emcee a plenary session, present my personal passion project, “Research to Empower the Next Generation of Aspiring Young Researchers”, as well as contribute to the Guidebook on Education Equality that was presented at a workshop. Unlike many other conferences that I have attended before, which mainly consisted of me passively listening to speakers, this conference was truly an extension of the ideal classroom, allowing youth leaders to play a crucial role in a national movement. We have been given the opportunity to create something so spectacular that it changes how adults perceive young people.

What also made this conference so magical was the inspirational presenters and speakers, such as the CEO of AmeriCorps Mr. Michael Smith, former Congressman Brian Baird, the Youth Panel (Khalique Rogers, Mys. Helen Martin, and Walter Cortina), and many, many others. Just to name a few, I had key takeaways like “dreams don’t work unless you do”, finding commonalities with others and then advocating for why they should care about your issues, and the importance of being down-to-earth and working hard even in higher leadership positions.

Ultimately, this entire conference’s core was to empower youth through service learning and celebrate the tangible impact made. It serves its mission exactly! We learned, inspired, and connected here. I already cannot wait for the next conference and what is to come!

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