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Featured Changemaker: SIERRA ASMUSSEN on Aquaponics, Role Models, and the YGL Program

Sierra Asmussen is a 2015 graduate of Youth Global Leadership who is working as an intern for YGL over the summer. She is preparing to begin her sophomore year at California Polytechnic State University (also known as Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, California. In this Featured Changemaker interview, Annie Roberts, another YGL Program Intern, sat down with Sierra to talk about everything from her passions and role models to the impact YGL had on her.

What are a few of your hobbies/what do you do in your free time? What are you involved with at Cal Poly?

I swam in high school, so when I’m feeling stressed, I love to do some laps and head back to that space. I also love to cook and bake and I am always experimenting with new recipes! At school I am a member of Women in Business, Chi Omega (a social sorority on campus), and the Aquaponics Club.

What are you passionate about?

I am super passionate about vegetarianism and specifically the impacts of meat production on our environment. I’m also passionate about aquaponics, which is a more sustainable and conscientious way to farm that involves using greenhouses and fish to fertilize the crops. I am also an avid ocean, goat, and bee lover.

How’d you originally find out about YGL? What brings you back as an intern?

I originally found out about YGL because one of my close friends, Anna Brent, was in the program. I joined my freshman year of highschool and was in the program for about four years. The reason I’m back is simply because I love this organization. Being in YGL had such a monumental impact on my high school experience and helped shape me as a person. To come back to this community in a more professional settings lets me interact more intimately with the programs and helps me make sure each YGLer has a great experience in the program.

What is your focus at the moment? Are you working on any projects?

Currently, I am working with a few YGLers and Alicia Conte (Program Coordinator) on a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project. This is a new way of looking at how traditional research is conducted. We have been interviewing other YGLers and then analyzing and coding their answers. We just finished up our five-week intensive project and are now writing a research paper on our work, methodology, and our findings.

What most excites you about the work you’re doing?

Having been in the program for four years, I think the most exciting part is coming back into this community and connecting with the YGLers. Every single person in the program is such an intentional and compassionate person, and it’s inspiring to get to work with them every day.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned or noticed as a YGL intern?

I think the most interesting thing I’ve encountered as a YGL intern is taking a step back from the program and noticing the group dynamics. Every person in the group is so unique and truly brings their own insight to each conversation. Watching each person grow and explore their passions is so cool!

The word “success” gets thrown around a lot, but it means something different to different people. What does it mean to you?

I think to me, success means being content with yourself and happy with where you are. Setting and accomplishing goals is very important to me, so when I finally accomplish my goals, I feel very successful and proud.

Is there anything that you want to do, but haven’t? What’s missing?

I would still love to join more clubs and activities at my university and get more involved on campus. I feel like I am still missing a really strong community that values all the same things that I do. Also, on a more playful note, I would love to go camping in Big Sur, go surfing, and try skydiving. These are all things I want to do this year.

Who is a role model in your life? What traits do they have that make them a role model? How has this particular person influenced you?

As cliché as it sounds, my biggest role models are my parents. My mom has been through so much, and continues to be the most positive and compassionate person I know, and my dad brings a very critical eye to situations. Their ability to work together as spouses and business partners is inspiring and reminds me of the importance of compromise.

What do you want to be remembered for?

I think the ultimate goal to strive towards is being remembered for being passionate. Finding what drives you, then honing in on that is the ultimate goal in life for me, so putting my whole being into everything I do is what I would like to be remembered for.

If you had one piece of advice to give to a group of people, what would it be and why?

It would be that there isn’t just one cookie cutter example of leadership. I would encourage them to explore the different forms and types of leadership there are. By recognizing everyone’s unique leadership abilities, I think community can function a lot more smoothly; it’s important to recognize and appreciate everyone’s skills.

Anything else you want our community to know about you?

I have loved every minute of both my time in YGL and as the program intern, and I hope in the future, youth continue to explore their passions through YGL and this community.

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