During this year’s Summer Youth Development Academy, 27 students from local Los Angeles high schools spent four weeks dissecting what it means to be a leader and discovering how they can become positive, influential leaders in their communities.

They learned from special guest speakers in government and business who shared their pathways to leadership, the challenges and successes, and inspired students with their stories and advice. Assemblymember Mike Gipson challenged students to find their strengths and passions and from these, shape a career path. Joyce Sharman, wife of the late Bill Sharman, longtime Laker coach and 10-time NBA champion, taught students that “kindness has the power to change the world.” Pilar Hoyas of Watson Land Co. encouraged students, saying, “Education is the pathway to true change for yourself and others.” And Gabriela Medina, field deputy for Councilman Joe Buscaino told students, “Don’t let careless choices define you. Make the necessary changes to move forward in a better way.” Students gleaned invaluable wisdom from these speakers and many others, motivating them to pursue their goals in education and future careers.

Students also engaged daily with the challenges of Los Angeles area communities by interacting with one another around information found in newspaper, online sources, and news magazines. Throughout the four weeks they used this information to work on their capstone project, a Point of View presentation to help raise civic awareness to needs plaguing our communities.

Each student was challenged to identify a civic concern, research its causes and potential remedies, and prepare an advocacy speech to inspire change. Students integrated research, mentor feedback, and peer review to develop their final Powerpoint presentation with a goal of delivering a powerful message of need and hope.

At the culmination of Summer YDA, these 27 high school students presented to more than 100 guests at The Asomugha Foundation Voices of Hope event. They addressed issues such as a need for more sober living facilities, and the ongoing challenge of ARTICLE BODY: image for women in a culture focused on Hollywood celebrities and models. It was a powerful afternoon watching students discover and express their concerns and identify ways to make their communities better.

Sharefest looks forward to seeing communities grow stronger as these students go back with new-found leadership skills and a firm conviction that change is possible.

Watch a video recap of their summer experience…