The Youth Leadership Initiative Is the Nest Where I Learned How to Fly
Jose Fernando Vargas Zavala participated in the Youth Leadership Initiative in 2018-19. This blog post is edited and excerpted from an award-winning essay Fernando wrote for a contest among YLI participants in spring 2019.
People have differences that make us special, singularities that sometimes are indescribable and inexplicable, and that only the person can describe. We each have preferences that come from our family, beliefs, and cultures that must be respected. This is one of the things I learned from the Youth Leadership Initiative (YLI).
My school counselor recommended YLI because she was worried about my well-being. I decided to join because she said it was a place where I would meet people who would understand me. And she did not lie. When I started with this adventure in YLI, I thought it would give me more responsibilities and distractions that would not make any difference in my life. I started with my left foot. I think I owe you a lot of apologies for being a bitter and a toxic person. I could not express my true self for fear of being exiled. I thought so because it was always like that for me.
I got to meet people younger than me who have peculiarities and great minds and are creative and fascinating. I could not believe it! I met people from age of 15 to 17 years old with the mind of an adult. It was great to know that people like this exist. I learned about their past, their fears, and their achievements. I saw them grow and mature. And I really admire them all.
My counselor also said that YLI would teach me to grow as a person. I must admit that YLI helped me more than I thought. I learned many things about myself. I’ve learned that I have perseverance. People told me that I was better able to understand complicated situations that required a level of understanding and empathy for others.
I am thankful for those who tried to talk and accept my company. They helped me to see my surroundings differently. They really changed me. I would have liked to know them all more deeply. If I have the opportunity to return, I would do it without hesitation. I know there is a place where I will be accepted. There is no other place like YLI.