India 2019
Jan
4
to Jan 8

India 2019

I was honored to be a part of the first YLC trip to go to India since 2014. By partnering with The Big Red Group, YLC was able to hold a conference in New Delhi for 60 students, who came from 30 different schools and four different countries. Once I learned of their diverse background, I was blown away by how comfortable they were with one another, when in reality they did not know more than 1-3 students before arriving at the conference.  

The students were so enthusiastic from the very start of the conference, and really threw themselves wholeheartedly into every activity, presentation, and game that we had planned. I immediately knew that these students were different when after the first day, they asked for a shorter lunch time so that we could spend more time working on projects and activities!  

I felt a strong sense of pride once day 4 began, which was fully dedicated to public speaking activities. We held a round table, with each counselor hosting a different activity, and the students rotated to participate in each one. There was so much progression since day one in each student’s confidence and public speaking that I knew each one would absolutely crush their presentations the following day, and to no one’s surprise, they each did an incredible job. 

Even though the project groups brought students together from different cities and even countries, I am confident that through their tenacity and fervor to create change that they will continue working on their projects well into the next year, and truly make a difference in their communities. I really look forward to the mentorship program that we have in place over the next year, and to receive updates from the students on their projects. These young adults inspired me so much over the week, and I can honestly say that I learned more from them than I was able to teach them.

-Thomas Bassett, YLC New Delhi 2019 Director


Organized by:

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In association with:

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Dubai 2019
Jan
3
to Jan 5

Dubai 2019

YLC Dubai 2017 was an incredibly fruitful and rewarding experience for the 62 students and 5 teachers. We were fortunate to have Varoun, Dario, Dennis, Albie, and Amanda attend the conference and help the students identify their true potential to make differences in their schools, businesses, and communities. On top of the guidance provided by the teachers, the students were fortunate enough to receive advice, guidance, and college counseling from Karan Kumar, CEO and Founder of Amalthea Capital, Niti Kewalramani, CEO and Founder of The Education Advisory, and Mitesh Daga, Managing Director of TPG Capital.

The students hailed from 27 different schools, and the diversity of backgrounds and experiences were very evident as they worked with real-life business scenarios to tackle world problems. For the second time, we provided students with case studies and problems centered around drug pricing, technological innovation and educational reform, global energy, homelessness, and healthcare, and we let them devise their own solutions.

The students all provided very intelligent insights and innovative solutions to some of the biggest problems that businesses and organizations around the world are facing. We were very impressed at their ability to engage deeply and effectively with the case studies.

Watching these young adults grow into leaders through identifying their leadership styles, learning the basics of start-ups, learning how to effectively negotiate, and making friendships and connections that will last far beyond the conference was very fulfilling for us, and this conference is one that we will not forget.

- Varoun Gulati and Dario Zarrabian, Chairs of YLC

See photos here!

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Boston 2018
Aug
27
to Aug 31

Boston 2018

YLC Boston 2018 was my first conference as a member of YLC. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and truly got me excited to be a part of Youth Lead the Change. Albie, Ethan and I had the opportunity to plan and coordinate the conference, which is a rewarding experience in itself, especially once the conference started and we began interacting with the students.

After going through the application process, I thought I had a handle of each student’s personality and character, but as soon as the conference began, I was blown away by how dedicated they each were. 42 students attended the conference from high schools, both public and private, all around Boston. They arrived ready to learn and many already had a social change project in mind or had already been working in that space through other school clubs or during their own free time.

Many of them only knew 1-2 other students there, but they were quick to reach out and make friends with other students at the conference, especially those they were working on their projects with. The students inspired me with how interactive they were during the activities, and with how driven they were to create change in their home environments.

I was incredibly impressed when, on the third day after only formulating their projects for 1 day, a couple of the groups had raised over $100 on GoFundMe accounts. I was also blown away how some groups were able to coordinate their projects even though they were going to different schools and had plans in place to combine their clubs and share strategies between themselves to further their goals. The students truly made my first conference an incredible experience, and really taught me how much change their generation is capable of creating.

-Thomas Bassett, YLC Boston 2018 Director

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Puerto Rico 2018
Jun
4
to Jun 8

Puerto Rico 2018

For the first time since May 2014, YLC returned to Puerto Rico to hold a conference at the Saint John’s School in an incredibly important time for the country. Gillian, Albie, Zoi, and I had the privilege of serving as mentors to 50 Puerto Ricans, while parts of the country still remained roofless, without power, and in need of aid due to Hurricane Maria, which had devastated the country less than a year ago.

The students who attended the conference came excited and prepared to make real change to impact the lives of those still affected by Hurricane Maria. Their social change projects were well-developed and impactful around these issues. They devised ways to fundraise for those struggling, strengthen the hospitals, and unite the community in a time of need.

The best moment from this conference happened when the students ventured into the streets of Puerto Rico to make an impact in the community. The students hugged over 100 locals, immediately bringing smiles to their faces and brightening their day. One student described his takeaway from the activity: “We realized you don’t need to have money to change the lives of those around you.”

I am very impressed by the students’ intellectual ability, innovation, and creativity around these projects and am excited to hear about how they aid those affected by Maria and serve as disaster relief in case of another hurricane. These students showed me that in the direst of scenarios, anyone at any age can step up and make a large-scale difference in the community, and I would like to thank them for showing me the true power of change that the youth can have.

- Dario Zarrabian, YLC Puerto Rico 2018 Director

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Dubai 2017
Aug
25
to Aug 27

Dubai 2017

YLC Dubai was an amazing experience for the students as well as the teachers! We were fortunate to have Varoun, Jonathan, and Gillian as teachers, and even more fortunate to have around fifty engaged and passionate students. Students came from different emirates, schools, and backgrounds, but all shared a desire to become better leaders.

We experimented with a new focal point for our curriculum, utilizing real-world business case studies. Students answered questions such as what Kroger should do to combat the threat of online shopping or how a pharmaceutical firm, Novartis, should price its drug and enter a new market. The students really stepped up and presented thoughtful solutions to complex problems which real-world industry executives struggle with.

I was so excited to see the students grow over the three-day conference: learning more about themselves and their leadership style, becoming better negotiators and speakers, and becoming closer to other talented students they wouldn’t get to meet otherwise. YLC Dubai 2017 was a truly memorable conference for me.

Chris Willis, YLC Dubai 2017 Teacher

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Boston 2017
Aug
21
to Aug 25

Boston 2017

Directing YLC Boston was an incredibly rewarding experience for me this past summer. These students came from all different schools from Boston and the suburbs of Massachusetts. Right from day one, each and every student was engaged and had a genuine interest in wanting to learn the skills that they could use to empower their communities.

We began the week with a broad overview and discussion about leadership and what qualities a good leader possesses, while helping students identify their own leadership styles. Throughout the week, the students stretched their comfort zones and participated in team-building and organizational group activities that can be implemented in their daily lives. Through these activities, we focused on helping the students with their public speaking and collaboration skills.

The conference culminated in the students bringing all the week’s ideas together into their own independent social change projects. Over the final three days, the students analyzed a problem in their school or community, reasoned through ways to improve the lives of those around them, and designed plans of attack to actually implement their movements, which undoubtedly will make great impact in their communities.

The best part of this conference for me was watching the students grow their skillset and develop their social change projects. While I am incredibly honored to work with these students during the five days, I am even more excited to watch these kids go into their communities and make real impacts.

- Dario Zarrabian, YLC Boston Co-Director, 2017

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Boston 2016
Aug
24
to Aug 28

Boston 2016

Having first been a YLC student and then a Junior Counselor, directing YLC Boston for the first time was a full circle trip for me. At the same time, I knew first-hand the impact that YLC can have on students, so I wanted to make the same change that was made for me in these students’ lives.

I was nervous on the first day that it would be difficult to get the students engaged and interested but they were all incredibly attentive, inquisitive, and engaged. Rather than focusing on our normal social change projects, we used case studies as the primary project of the week since this YLC Boston was only a three-day long conference. The case studies were comprehensive but the students tackled the issues with great skill and they dissected the issues thoroughly.

Working on their case study ideas, students honed their public speaking and collaboration skills. Throughout the week, we focused on helping the students think through root cause analysis, analyze community problems, and then put it all into practice: solving their case study’s issue.

I was very impressed by the quality of the presentations and it was amazing to see how much progress the students made. Some of the quietest students had incredible stage presence and controlled the room as if they were completely different people from two days prior. This was extremely rewarding for me to see that YLC had made a real difference for these students and that we had provided them with skills they could use to make a difference in their own communities.

Overall, I had an amazing time directing this conference. We had a really special team and group of students for the conference, and I can’t wait to hear stories of the projects these students work on in the future!

- Varoun Gulati '19, YLC Boston 2016 Director

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Calgary 2016
Jun
20
to Jun 24

Calgary 2016

Calgary was an incredible experience! We were lucky to have Ruiqi and Savannah as teachers. The conference was five days long as usual, and the students were incredibly engaged. The most remarkable thing about this conference was how much the students bonded. We established norms right off the bat to create an inclusive and committed atmosphere. By the end of the conference, we had an activity where we fed each other cake (including to our supervisor) and told each other what we appreciated by each person. This was a conference where students felt supported in their growth by each other and the teachers. They felt like they had fellow leaders growing alongside them, and a network to support them afterwards. Aside from that, the students learned a lot about their values, their leadership style, and the societal issues that they care about. 

-Megan Gao, YLC Calgary 2016 Director

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India 2016
May
31
12:00 PM12:00

India 2016

Traveling to India for the very first time in my life, I stepped outside of the Gandhi International Airport with a mixed sense of excitement, fear and curiosity. After taking a quick glance of my surrounding, it came to immediate realization that India is very different from what I had imagined. The chaotic streets of New Delhi were simply overwhelming; multiple cars were sharing a single lane and traffic signals were being violated while cars honked mercilessly at each other. My experience with students, however, was much less chaotic. After the very first day of the conference, I was simply shocked by how brilliant and driven the students were. Not only were they willing to listen, but also, they were willing to make serious efforts to apply our mentorship in their personal lives. As a matter of fact, a lot of the students were able to turn their ideas and passion into workable ideas and projects. Some of the students organized charity events to help those in rural villages, while others came up with innovative ways of confronting bullying and gender equity issues. The students continue to send me updates through WhatsApp!

It was my honor directing this conference with amazing teachers: Jonathan, Nakul and Louis.

As it was my first time directing and serving as a YLC teacher, I received a substantial amount of help from Jonathan, Nakul and Louis. The conference was a huge success and I really hope the students continue emerging as leaders in their communities.

-Dennis Kim '19, YLC India 2016 Director

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Vail 2016
Jan
10
to Jan 14

Vail 2016

Before this trip, the farthest west I had ever traveled was Chicago. Although I was initially intimidated by the thought of my first conference, I immediately felt at home in Vail, Colorado. The spectacular views worthy of a postcard were beautiful, but their brilliance had some serious competition. I was taken aback by the eighth grade students at the Vail Mountain School, all of whom were ambitious, driven, and passionate about important social issues.

Directing this conference was a huge privilege, and I could not have done it without my three fellow teachers: Sean, Jim, and Mark. This was Sean’s second Vail conference, and it was definitely a huge advantage to have someone who was familiar with the school and faculty. Jim and Mark, both from other sub-committees of the Leadership Institute at Harvard College, blew me away with their incredible teaching experience. I was fortunate to learn as much as I did from them in less than a week.

Throughout the five-day conference, the four of us worked with the students in various leadership-based activities. For example, the eighth grade class was extremely engaged in learning how to discuss their future goals without using “filler words” such as “um,” “so,” and “like.” However, they were most excited about developing and working on their social change projects. One group combined their passion for music and mental health awareness by creating a website where people could share uplifting musical playlists through Spotify. Another group had plans to collect lightly-used sporting equipment for underprivileged youth unable to participate in sports due to financial reasons. Their goal was to reach out to the administration at VMS and a variety of local stores to put their boxes on display so their equipment could be shared among the Vail community.

Looking back at what the eighth grade accomplished in such a short span of time, I cannot even begin to describe the overwhelming joy Sean, Jim, Mark, and I felt. Even those students afraid to speak up in the beginning of the week were able to present their projects in front of the rest of the class with a much higher level of confidence. Their kindness and good intentions were represented through every aspect of their project, and although the four of us came to Vail with a set curriculum to teach, I can definitely say we learned a great deal from the students themselves. -

-Gillian Hess, YLC Vail 2016 Director

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Boston 2015
Aug
24
to Aug 28

Boston 2015

YLC Boston 2015 was an incredibly special conference for me. It was my first conference as chair of YLC, and I couldn't have asked for more. Students' social change projects were incredible, their growth was hard to believe, and it was all-in-all a fun group of students.

As a Harvard student, it's always great to give back to the Boston area that has given me so much. This conference reinvigorated me before the school year, and I'm hopeful that the YLC students and junior counselors felt the same.

-Chris Willis '17, YLC Chair

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China 2015
Jun
22
to Jun 26

China 2015

YLC China 2015 was a conference unlike any of our other conferences! Instead of being a week spent with one group and developing a social change project, we tried out a different approach with the students at the International School of Beijing.

Not only did we have the chance to work with 7th graders, but 10th graders and also recent graduates. The 7th graders in the Futures Academy had spent all year working on a social change project that was similar to one that we would typically focus on. So instead of developing the project, it was our job to teach the students how to present and pitch their projects. Not only did we learn how to make mission statements, communicate effectively, timeline, and get creative, but the students also made videos about their projects! We also worked with 10th graders who engaged in similar projects. Lastly, we had the incredible opportunity to speak with ISB graduates. We guided them through self-awareness exercises to prepare themselves before heading off to college. This included becoming aware of our life stories, our values, and goals.

This was personally the first conference that I ever taught! It was such an incredible experience. My favourite part was connecting with the students. They were so passionate about learning more about themselves and how to change the world through little steps. Once given the tools, they could learn how to start thinking about how to do this in small but tangible ways. One of my favourite activities involved thinking of "multiple uses" of one object, like a pen or a pillow. These students came up with more than fifty uses of one object! We transitioned this into demonstrating that there are numerous ways to solve or think about a problem. I was so amazed at how creative they were.

Thank you so much for the incredible staff for hosting us at ISB, and we are so excited to come back in the future (especially for the dumplings).

-Megan Gao, YLC China Director

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India 2015
May
19
to May 23

India 2015

I like to ask older people, “What do you wish you had done in your twenties?” Among many surprising and sometimes abstract answers I receive, the most common is: “go spend time in a foreign country (one that sounds really foreign to you). It will change your perspective about life.”

Late May, a day after my (last) final exam, I boarded the plane to India. Like many people who choose India for a summer vacation, I really had a lot to look forward to (including but not limited to the Taj Mahal).

Except that mine wasn’t a vacation. I was going to help run our very first YLC Conference in India. What a privilege!

The experience was totally unprecedented: I met awesome strangers who didn’t mind carrying my heavy bags at midnight, took long drives, got annoyed by honking horns, ate nice (and I mean really nice) food, survived through hot afternoons, learned to dance the Indian way, and above all, spent time with some of the most brilliant and passionate students of our generation.

Most of these students did not know each other. They all came from different places and high schools in New Delhi and seemed to have totally different backgrounds and lifestyles. However, these students shared a genuine drive for social change. From the very first day of our workshop, I had no doubt that the next 4 days were going to really change my perspective about life. 

Throughout the week, I got to sit and moderate conversations between high schoolers about some of the most pressing issues in India. These students knew quite well that the change in their communities can only come about as a result of their hard work and cooperation. I remember staring at one of the students, as she explained the mental health issues facing teenagers in India. When she was done, I felt like I just lived a day in the life of a child with a mental health condition. But more than that, I knew for a fact, that with such passionate servant leaders, it’s just a matter of time before the future of mentally ill children changes.

Friday came very quickly. (Or otherwise, Indian weeks are pretty short.) It was time to sum up a life-changing week. As I sat in the back of the room, thinking of a few words to utter to this small bunch of future leaders, Margaret Mead’s quote crossed my mind: “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I stood up, got my group together, thanked them for a week well spent and murmured the quote to them the way I remembered it. I went through a range of feelings as I watched the students internalize that quote. I knew something had just clicked in their hearts. I could see that they were ready to go out and change the world.

As the time got too close, I posed for pictures (which I am really not good at), picked up my bag and left the room with Chris, Tiffany and Kelsey (colleagues who never cease to amaze me). I was sure my life was not going to be the same. I was changed. I was inspired. I was encouraged. I was ready to go change my world. But most of all, I was thankful to LIHC's Youth Lead the Change for giving me the opportunity to do such a meaningful trip.

-Jonathan Iyandemye, YLC India Director

 

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Vail 2015
Jan
19
to Jan 23

Vail 2015

Walking up to Vail Mountain School for the first time, I was certain that nothing could amaze me more than the beauty of the school and the surrounding mountains. Our students in this conference proved me so very wrong. Throughout the conference I was amazed by their maturity, passion, and intelligence. The group of students was mostly younger, 8th and 9th graders, but they maturely tackled difficult issues like poverty in Africa, loneliness in hospitals, and bullying. 

I was incredibly honored to direct this conference with incredible teachers: Kara, Emily, and Jonathan. Kara and Emily helped found YLC, and both the students and I learned so much from their experience. This was Jonathan's first conference, and I could not believe what a great teacher he was. He is wise beyond his years, and the students recognized that. 

In order to try to push continued project development after the conference, we decided to try something new this conference. Rather than focusing students on a final presentation about their social change issue, we encouraged students to start working on their projects during the conference and make their presentations about the work they had done during the week. The students dove right in, and the most common delta we got at the end of the day was "We want to work on our projects more!" One of our groups has published their project (called Loose Snow) about warning people when avalanche danger is high. You can check it out here: www.loosesnow.com.

The conference was a great success, and I can't wait to see our students continue to change the world!

-Sean Wheelock, YLC Vail Director

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Myanmar 2015
Jan
5
to Jan 9

Myanmar 2015

YLC Myanmar was an adventure for us and for our students! For all of the teachers it was our first time visiting the Golden Land, and we were amazed by the friendliness of its inhabitants and the motivation of its students.

The students at YLC Myanmar were some of the most engaged students we've ever had at a YLC program - they truly made the most of their experience. It was great to see progression of many students, many of whom began intimidated by speaking in English to being incredible presenters who were set on creating a positive change in their community. I feel that our students in Myanmar will really go on to make their country and the world a better place.

-Chris Willis '17, YLC Myanmar 2015 Teacher

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Boston 2014
Aug
25
to Aug 29

Boston 2014

As I sat in the Harvard SOCH waiting for our students to arrive, I was filled with a nervous anticipation. I had never led a YLC conference before, and I did not know what to expect. Students began trickling in, and almost immediately assuaged my worries. They were bright, eager to learn, and motivated: the perfect students.

Teaching root cause analysis for the first time was the highlight of the conference for me. Watching students dissect complicated issues like poverty and racism and dig deeper to try to address the real causes of these problems was quite eye opening. Students really gained a new understanding of the problems in their community through this analysis. 

This conference taught me how to take a more hands-off approach to leadership. The structure of YLC is such that each teacher is only in charge of a small portion of the day. As a Co-Director of the conference, it was difficult for me to step back and let my fellow director do most of the directing since he had far more experience than I did. I constantly felt the need to step up and assert myself as a competent director too, but I fought that urge because our first priority was having a good conference. 

This conference was smaller than past YLC Boston conferences. Most days we had about 25 students in attendance. It gave the conference a much more personal feel, and allowed a lot of mentoring in the breakout groups, which was very good and translated over to even better presentations and projects. I cannot wait to see all the good that these young men and women do in the world!

-Sean Wheelock, YLC Boston Co-Director

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Tokyo 2014
Aug
11
to Aug 15

Tokyo 2014

In August of 2014 the YLC team traveled halfway across the world to teach a group of 13 Japanese middle and high school students at the Yebisu Garden Place in Tokyo. Most of the students were international high school students.

When thinking back on this amazing the trip, I always remember, first and foremost, the students leap in understanding of the concepts and practice of public speaking skills. By the end of the conference, students were actively, unprovoked, using many key words from our presentations, such as giving care, community, root cause, responsibility, and mission statements. Nothing makes me as happy as an unintentional teach back. Public speaking skills advanced tremendously throughout the week. On the first day, the group as a whole spoke softly and avoided eye contact. But through a combination of discussion of technique and plenty of practice, students presented their social change projects confidently and convincingly to a crowd of family and friends.

On our fourth day of the conference, a former Japanese ambassador visited to talk about his experiences abroad and the responsibility that Japan had to take care of other members of our global community. Students commented later that day that much of the things he talked about echoed ideas from the conference. Hearing these same ideas presented by an outside source in a real world context helped students better understand and believe in our concepts. 

The teaching staff, as we always do, learned more than we do during an average week at Harvard. We set a new norm that we hope to carry on to future conferences: at the end of every day, we asked students what ideas from the day did not make sense to them. Each night, the teachers would return to our hotel with one or two unclear topics. At the start of the next day, one of us attempted to briefly clarify the confusing ideas in a new way. The feedback was great, increasing understanding and driving in key points from the week.

Outside of teaching, Kelsey and I spent much time exploring the diverse and exciting neighborhoods of Japan. We ate our way through Ginza, Gotanda, Asakusa, and much more, documenting every adventure via our iPhones and cameras. Hiromi, our partner in Japan, was an amazing hostess, making sure we saw every part of the city and that we got a total experience. I even found myself 451.2 meters high at the top of the Tokyo SkyTree, the second tallest building in the world. I ate more raw fish in that week than I have the rest of my life, and I still found myself craving more. 

Of course, all good things must come to an end. Tokyo is an incredible city. And our Tokyo 2014 students were an exceptional bunch. As we told them at the end of the conference, we believe in them. And we know they will go on to make positive changes on their communities.

-Dean Itani, YLC Tokyo Teacher

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Puerto Rico 2014
May
26
to May 30

Puerto Rico 2014

Following months of strategic planning and coordination with our host school, sponsors, applicants, and guest speakers—it was finally time for the first edition of YLC Puerto Rico held in the Baldwin School of Puerto Rico. Having been born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico I could not contain the excitement of having organized a conference that felt so close to home. I attended the Baldwin School of Puerto Rico two years earlier and ever since leaving Puerto Rico to study at Harvard, I promised myself that I would be back to promote positive changes on the island. With 54 highly talented students from over 12 high schools (both public and private), over five countries, and diverse economic backgrounds, this conference felt like the fulfillment of that promise.

From the conference’s inception, the students worked individually and in teams to develop new ideas to address social and economic issues in Puerto Rico by generating creative solutions and programs that they could implement to lead change. The students also enjoyed presentations from some of the top business leaders in Puerto Rico: Jaime Fortuño, Gabriel Hernández, Carlos López-Lay, and Alejandro Silva Díaz provided students with different perspectives on how to become better leaders and provided valuable information about their vision to improve Puerto Rico’s economy and quality of life. The five-day program culminated with the students presenting their project ideas visions to a panel of business executives including Carlos Pepe Rodriguez, Westley Cullen and Ms. Carmen Cedré. The presentations focused on how they would implement the programs to achieve social and economic change. The panel provided the students with their feedback and ideas on how to approach the implementation of programs. 

My personal highlight was to witness the students maturing and developing their confidence over the course of the conference. The participants truly challenged themselves to step outside of their comfort zone and when it came to final presentations, our students truly surpassed our expectations. Without a doubt, the entire YLC Puerto Rico teaching staff is highly convinced that these students will be highly successful in their future endeavors to transform Puerto Rico and the world.

-Tiffany Lazo-Cedré, YLC Puerto Rico Director

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Vail 2014
Jan
13
to Jan 17

Vail 2014

In January of 2014 the YLC team ventured to Vail Colorado and had a fantastic conference at the Vail Mountain School (VMS).

Conference Highlights: YLC Vail had so many incredible highlights. First of all, the VMS campus was gorgeous, and the students and staff couldn’t have been more welcoming. As well, the conference’s final day will forever remain in my memory. Seeing the hard work that each kid put into his/her group’s project was truly inspiring, especially since the students’ growth was so apparent on this last day.

The kicker for me, though, had to be our first ever YLSki day. Every Friday at VMS ends with the students going to Vail Mountain Resort to ski and snowboard, and we got to join them! It was a really funny reversal of roles as our students who had been skiing for years took time on the bunny slopes to teach Paoa (who’s from Hawaii and never skied) to ski. There were some hysterical wipeouts from all the teachers, and I think this day brought the students and teachers even closer together.

What Made This Conference Unique: One of the coolest things about this YLC conference was the fact that all the participants came from the same school – VMS. This allowed the kids to dive right into the conference without the usual hesitation between strangers. It also created some truly magical moments when students who had been friends for years learned things about each other that they’d never heard before.

Favorite Moment: Each YLC conference does a special lunch one day called the “Cultural Lunch” where students can bring in a dish that has been important to their culture or family, and the teachers do the same. Since we lacked a full pantry, we created something simple – Boston Brownies! One thing we forgot about when cooking though was that the town of Vail is 8,150 feet above sea level, and the altitude makes dishes cook faster than normal. We ended up sharing our Boston Brownie Brittle (patent pending) with our students who took it in stride and laughed about our rookie altitude cooking mistake. 

What Set This Conference Apart: For me, YLC Vail 2014 will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first YLC conference. I was originally very nervous about teaching the curriculum, especially in our small groups, but my students were incredible! I couldn’t believe how receptive and focused they were. I hope the students learned half as much as I learned from them, because they taught me so much about how to be an active and engaged learner.

-Chris Willis, YLC Vail Teacher

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Nagoya 2013
Aug
12
to Aug 16

Nagoya 2013

The YLC Nagoya program in Japan was held in partnership with the Alive English School, a network of independent schools that provides English language and enrichment programming for native Japanese students. The President of the school reached out to YLC in hopes of introducing a program that would teach problem-solving and critical thinking skills, in contrast to the current system of memorization and deference. These skills are also increasingly important to admittance into Western universities and multi-national employment. 

In August 2013, I led a group of six Harvard students and alumni to teach 40 students in Nagoya, a major Japanese business center. One of the initial challenges was the variation in age range from 10 to 16, requiring us to modify the curriculum for the different levels. However, given that YLC is largely taught in breakout groups to enhance engagement, the age difference was not a problem--and in fact some of the youngest groups were the most impressive. Throughout the week, all the students rose to the challenges presented to them, overcoming cultural and educational norms of conformism and hesitation. The first day, not one student would raise their hand to answer. By the end of the week, arms shot into the air when questions were asked and voices spoke with confidence as they were pressed to think differently.

The highlight of the week was the final day. Parents, siblings and special guests gathered in the room to listen to the group share their ideas. The students displayed dazzling posters and polished public speaking skills as they shared their innovative social change projects and reflections on the week. After the camp, feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with the one "negative" response being that "The camp was so fun it was hard to sleep at night!"

YLC teachers also had an unforgettable time experiencing the Japanese culture, staying in homestays with local families. The hosts generously shared their traditions (and delicious food!) with us and continue to stay in contact. The kindness and generosity is deeply appreciated, and we look forward to further programs in Japan!

-Kara Kubarych, YLC Nagoya Director

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Boston 2011
Aug
22
to Aug 26

Boston 2011

I had no idea what to expect for the 2011 YLC Conference. It was the first program ever held at Harvard, and the team had not anticipated the many challenges of such an undertaking. Thanks to the incredible support and guidance of Ranjay Gulati (Harvard Business School professor) and several other mentors and leaders in the Boston education community, the program would likely not have happened. Fortunately, the outreach efforts and curriculum writing activities bore fruit – so much so that we were overwhelmed by the number of outstanding applications!

In the heat of late August, 60 of Boston and Cambridge’s most talented and diverse high schoolers set foot on Harvard’s Old Yard. As were convened in the lecture hall of the Emerson Building, I could feel the energy buzzing as the students nervously connected. We all felt like pioneers – unsure of exactly what was ahead, but excited for what it held nonetheless. The teacher cohort proceeded with introductions, which quickly transitioned into icebreakers games outside. Initial fears melted away, and friendships formed in those initial team challenges.

Over the course of the week, the students experienced the initial YLC curriculum – combining interactive leadership skill-building with social change projects. They also engaged with case studies, created by the teaching staff as a way to focus discussion around specific social issues, including childhood obesity, women and girls’ rights, and homeless in Boston. On day two, students formed teams that were tasked with developing a solution to one of these issues. To do so, they applied the skills they learned over the course of the week, such as root cause analysis and time-lining, to develop a presentation for their idea.

The last day of the camp surpassed everyone’s expectations. After a busy morning of personal reflections and presentation preparation, the students gathered before an audience of parents and visitors. Again, the room buzzed with energy – but this time it was to celebrate the week’s success. Each team delivered a detailed presentation, pitching their vision and solution with poise. A handful of students then delivered personal reflections, and the YLC teachers shared fond memories of the week. The day ended with a big cake and lots of phone numbers being exchanged before parents dragged their kids away! Sixty students’ lives had been changed, and that number has continued to grow each year as YLC expands.

-Kara Kubarych, YLC Boston Director

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