Eh Tha Blay Soe: ‘Because of YLI, I Can Be More Myself’
When Eh Tha Blay Soe started high school, she felt shy and avoided public speaking. Then she joined the Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI), a multicultural leadership program at Wilder where youth strengthen their self-awareness, hone their leadership skills, and put those skills into action in the community.
As a participant and then as a youth mentor, Eh Tha gained confidence in herself and learned that she can be a leader. She also began speaking in public, including a keynote speech at a YLI event. “It was a really big transformation,” Eh Tha says. “Throughout the years I got comfortable speaking, and I improved my speaking skills and critical thinking skills.”
After graduating from high school in 2018, Eh Tha wanted to give to YLI out of gratitude for the growth she experienced in the program. She had been working since her sophomore year, so she made a significant gift from her savings to support YLI. “It’s important to give back to something that has changed me in a better way,” Eh Tha says. “Because of YLI, I can be more myself.”
Now a freshman at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, Eh Tha continues to use the skills she gained as she adjusts to a new environment. Participating in class discussions was challenging at first, but when Eh Tha feels shy she thinks of the skills she learned in YLI—and she speaks up.