youth lead

By Mackenzie Steinberg, Research and Development Communications VISTA at Search Institute

At the time of our conversation, Rhoda Leos and Meredith Howe were knee deep into working at the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District on Project Worth. Project Worth is a program within the Health District that focuses on positive youth development and social emotional learning with young people in the San Antonio, TX community. Rhoda and Meredith, and in turn Project Worth, have an intentional focus on youth voice and leadership. 

Project Worth integrates what they call “teen ambassadors” into their project.  These teen ambassadors are volunteer leaders within the program who help provide a youth voice to different initiatives that are in the works.  

The City of San Antonio Metro Health District along with many other San Antonio youth serving organizations and schools, have had a long standing relationship with Search Institute the past few years hosting several research based workshops; the most recently being Youth Lead: A Workshop for Young People.    

“What we were trying to do was offer leadership development… invest in their growth and development. We came across Youth Lead on Search Institute’s website and it seemed to really fit what we needed. All of our partner organizations that participated were very familiar with Search Institute, but we wanted the youth to be more involved so they could meet each other and work together,” they said.

Youth Lead: A Workshop for Young People  is a 3-4 hour workshop for middle and high school aged youth that involves interactive and engaging team building, as well as real time leadership project planning. Search Institute’s intentions when bringing the Youth Lead workshop to an organization or school is that participants will learn to explore their leadership qualities, recognize the qualities of effective leaders, build support among their peers to take on leadership roles, and practice leadership skills by creating positive change in their school, organization, or community. 

Meredith and Rhoda had high hopes for the Youth Lead workshop. They made it clear that it was important to them to include youth from their community. So in addition to the teen ambassadors at Project Worth, Healthy Futures Youth Advocacy Council, UT Teens Health Leadership Council, UP Partnership, and The Good Samaritan Community Center Youth Advisory Council were all invited to participate as well. 

When asked why they wanted to involve so many other youth that don’t work with Project Worth, Meredith and Rhoda said, “Most youth groups were just starting for the year and one of our goals was to help them plan the rest of the year. We wanted a workshop that really focused on the opportunity for youth to become leaders, have tools to help them be successful, reach their dreams, and have an impact on their community.” 

Another reason why Meredith and Rhoda thought the Youth Lead workshop would be a great idea is because their teen ambassadors had expressed interest in doing more advocacy and awareness work with and for LGBTQ youth in the San Antonio area. 

Meredith shared, “During the Youth Lead workshop, our youth were able to brainstorm how to be allies and advocates for the LGBTQ community during the Real Time Leadership Project Planning” part of the workshop. “They shared with the rest of the group their ideas and came to the conclusion they wanted to get involved with LGBTQ Pride Month in some way.” 

True to Search Institute’s dedication to bridging research and practice to help all young people be and become their best selves, teens at Project Worth were also interested in helping serve their peers that belong to marginalized communities. 

Meredith and Rhoda thought the workshop was a success. “We got very positive feedback from our teen ambassadors. They were all very happy with the workshop and had a lot of fun. They got to connect with and see other teens and learned a lot about leadership. The youth also really appreciated the self-reflection aspect of the workshop.”

They added “Search Institute has been influential and supportive of the work that we do here, and every time we reach out with ideas, they have always been so willing to jump in with whatever we need. Even outside of workshops, we look up to Search Institute and try to integrate research and best practices into the work that we do.”