Sierra Asmussen is a 2015 graduate of the Youth Global Leadership Program. She currently attends California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo and is studying business. This past summer, Sierra came back to work with Philanthropiece as one of the Youth Global Leadership Program Interns.
The first time I walked into the Philanthropiece Barn, I was 14 years old and had just begun my time in Youth Global Leadership. I was there for the 3-day summer retreat and I had no idea what to expect. I had not made any concrete friends yet, and I was shy around these new people. Three days later, I walked out of the Philanthropiece Barn feeling incredibly inspired and honored to be a part of this program. In just three short days I had made strong connections, I had laughed and cried, and I felt like I fully belonged to this wonderful community. It was then, on the car ride home, that I knew I wanted to spend my time and energy on this program. I remember thinking that it would be a dream to work with Philanthropiece and wake up every day excited to do my job. Exactly four years later, I sit once again in the barn– only this time as a YGL Program Intern, living out my 14-year-old dream of working professionally with YGL and Philanthropiece.
My time as a YGLer was incredible; through YGL I was introduced to so many wonderful people, organizations and movements. YGL was the reason I started an ocean advocacy club, Teens 4 Oceans, at my high school, as well as where I realized I had an insane love for all things goats, bees, and aquaponics! I have gained so much knowledge and life experience from this program, and I wanted to make sure every other member had the opportunity to experience the same emotions I had. Coming back this summer, my goal was to play a supportive role for all the youth currently in YGL. I wanted them to find the same inspiration I had– to walk away when they graduated feeling like they had grown as a person and as an activist.
As the intern, a new and exciting project I got to work on was to facilitate and participate in a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project. For five weeks, I, along with three other Philanthropiece staff members and four current YGLers, dove into a process to reflect on both ourselves and the Youth Global Leadership Program. We spent ten hours a week interviewing other YGLers, coding and analyzing data, and discussing our findings. A big emphasis of the project was looking for YGL’s core values. From this project and talking with all the YGLers, we found that the most important community values to them included feeling loved, supported, connected, and respected. It may seem obvious that our community would value these ideals, however it was empowering to be able to confidently say that after weeks of discussion and research, we had confirmed those values to be true and authentic.
After a year away from both Boulder and YGL, I was ecstatic to once again live, laugh, and learn with the Youth Global Leaders. Everything I had loved was still here: passionate leaders coming together to talk about social justice. Although this year I was an intern instead of a member, the time spent with the YGLers was just as fun and enriching as I had remembered. The most exciting piece, was while I got to hang out with some really cool people, I also go to do the behind-the-scenes work like planning workshops and ordering food (a real perk if you ask me). All of this made me appreciate the program even more because I got to see how much heart and work goes into every meeting, activity, and retreat.
After my four years in YGL, I wanted to be able to come back this summer and create meaningful connections and work with a community that I love, and after participating in YPAR and co-facilitating the beloved summer retreat, I now see that the best way to continue supporting YGL is to keep offering an open, loving, and safe community for youth to connect. While my time in the program has come to an end, there are still so many wonderful and inspiring high school students who get to discover what makes Youth Global Leadership so special.
Sierra Asmussen is currently studying business administration at California Polytechnic State University, where she has also earned an Emerging Leadership Certificate. Leaer more about Philanthropiece’s Youth Global Leadership by viewing our 2016 Insight Trip documentary.