Beginning our journey as Trenton’s Next Generation Community Leaders, we were mostly just a group of teens who barely knew each other. We came so far as a group, working our hardest as the end of our year-long mission to organize a community festival about mental health drew closer. Everyone had an important part to play, from writing thank-you letters to managing a traveling festival, where we took a small collection of mental health resources and activities that would be featured at each location, and everything in between.
Even before the event planning began, our group was pushed far out of our comfort zone. We started canvassing to help raise awareness and generate excitement about the festival. As the date for the festival approached, the hours grew longer and we began meeting more often as we realized how much effort an event like this required. It was a tremendous amount of work to put together the festival, from finding performers and presenters to counting volunteers and managing the set up.
The rehearsals were a big challenge. We repeated the run of the show over and over again until everyone could say or sing their part perfectly. I felt, as the stage/performance manager, that I was under a unique kind of stress as I hurried to get everyone on stage and work around any changes in the schedule. Thankfully, our practice paid off in the end and we felt proud of what we spent our summer creating.
From the start of our work at the retreat at Camp Ockanickon, to the dwindling hours of an active summer, we worked toward becoming the leaders that Trenton needs. Despite a few bumps in the road, our labor was not in vain as I look back at our journey and feel a sense of accomplishment. People came to our Embrace You festival in late July and I believe that it was evidence enough that we were influencing our community in a positive way. What’s most important isn’t the number of the people who attended, but the difference we made in our community. In the end, we, the youth, were trusted with this responsibility.
See the Year One Trenton Next Generation Community Leaders’ work through their StandingTALL Facebook page. Track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders teams through the hashtag #NJLeaders2030.