From left, Ximena Areiza, 15, of Worcester talks about the Youth Venture program as Dynamy Youth Academy program coordinator Etel Capacchione listens during an interview at Dynamy in Worcester . (T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN)
By Amanda Roberge, CORRESPONDENT
WORCESTER — The beauty empowering youth as leaders in the community is that they are largely capable and willing to pay it forward.
This holds true for We Are Youth, an eight-person team of teens working to coordinate a group leadership experience with the help of several nonprofit agencies, who are proud to foster and support another tier of socially conscious youths.
The group of incoming juniors, who have been a part of Dynamy Leadership Academy’s Youth Academy since their freshman year and will continue to be guided with that program until they graduate, collaborated on the WAY concept and recently presented its idea before a United Way panel as part of the organization’s Youth Venture Program.
“Everybody (on the panel) was blown away,” said Kim Coates, who works as a liaison between Dynamy and United Way/Youth Venture as part of her work as an AmeriCorps Vista Partnership Specialist. “It has very impressive to me how they have handled and managed the constructive criticism I gave them as they were getting ready to go before the panel. They took what I said and turned it into an amazing presentation.”
Their concept as a Youth Venture allows the group of students, who represent a diverse mix of cultural experiences and backgrounds, to begin their own leadership team, where they can oversee yet another group of younger teens as they embark upon their academic careers in high school.
Essentially, they will take the lessons, life skills and academic tutoring they received at Dynamy during ninth and 10th grade and share it with another group of kids.
“We plan to help get them involved with community service efforts, help them become better leaders,” said Ximena Areiza, a Worcester Technical High School student involved in WAY.
Etel Capcchione, the program director for the Youth Academy at Dynamy, said the students hope to share what they have learned within the Youth Academy to some of the younger teens who did not get accepted into the program, making it a smaller and gentler version of what they themselves have had the opportunity to participate in.
WAY was awarded the full funding of $1,000, which member James Kariuki said will be used to purchase bus passes and office supplies for their mentees so that they can attend frequent meetings at the Dynamy office without transportation problems.
Many students who become part of the programs at Dynamy, he said, face economic disadvantages and can benefit from not only the access to a bus pass but also to the positive role modeling that occurs at the center. The WAY team seeks to make that experience available to a new group of students who may have otherwise been overlooked.
“Some of our goals include having their grades improve and also getting them involved with the community,” added Mr. Kariuki. They will mentor, tutor and provide support and programming for the selected youth to improve their life skills and college readiness.
The team will gather over the summer to fine-tune their curriculum and goals before starting up with the application and selection process, which will lead to them deciding on six incoming freshmen who will make a good team.
Along with Ms. Areiza and Mr. Kariuki, the team includes Kacie Brown, Giovanni Reyes, Cashious Okyere, Chris Portilla, Brittney Richards and Michaela Bates.
Worcester Telegram & Gazette