A Weekend of Inspiration at Tyler Hill
by Kate-Yeonjae Jeong
2023 Call For Kindness Fellow and 2023 Youth Leadership Retreat Participant
During the last weekend of September I had the opportunity to attend the fifth annual Riley’s Way Youth Leadership Retreat at Tyler Hill Camp in Pennsylvania. I became part of Riley’s Way through my community project, Light Up Network, as a Call For Kindness Fellow in 2023. Now, I was about to meet fellow Riley’s Way changemakers face-to-face for the first time, and I couldn’t help but feel it all; I was nervous and curious, but most of all, excited.
Being surrounded by the depth of the red, orange, and yellow foliage of the woods and the peaceful lakes of Tyler Hill truly was invigorating. With its scenic beauty and the detachment from the Internet, it felt right to immerse myself into a weekend of self-searching. Plus, without the distraction from the bustling cities and our phones, it felt so good to tap into simple human connections and network with a vibrant group of like-minded youth.
Throughout the three days of the Retreat, I was able to meet people from all over the country with a diverse array of passions. There were youth from all regions of the United States that were dedicated to missions ranging from eco-friendly technology developments to sharing feminine products with underserved communities, and fighting racism. As different as we all are, it was clearly evident that we are all driven by a zealous enthusiasm for changing our communities for the better.
The Retreat allowed me to take part in an affinity group where I was able to hear from a board of changemakers that reflected on how their backgrounds fueled their work. I also had the opportunity to participate in workshops. One particular workshop that I felt most moved by was led by Riley’s Way Youth Advisory Board Co-Chair Agha Haider and Co-Founder Ian Sandler, where together, we discussed and shared advice on the importance of networking and making connections in order to maximize the reach and potential of our missions.
Mind you, there were so many heartwarming moments throughout the Retreat. From morning yoga with new friends to taking scenic walks up the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, to roasting marshmallows around the campfire at night, each moment was truly exciting. However, if I had to pick a singular moment that really made me sit down and think about myself, my efforts, and my personal mission in life, it was this workshop.
Although it was just an hour-long conversation, Agha and Ian’s workshop fundamentally changed my perspectives on leadership. Being able to be so open and vulnerable with teenagers I’d just met while discussing intimate things like how we take inspiration from other people and take the scary yet brave first step to network with them really opened my mind. The workshop taught me that I wasn’t alone in the fears and challenges of maintaining relationships and connections, but that taking the first step with empathetic, thoughtful, communication is what really makes an effective leader.
From this workshop, I felt broadened about myself, too. It’s taught me that people are what really inspire me. Keeping my heart open and my ears attentive to stories helps me draw connections between passions, much like how Riley Sandler did.
After the weekend, I truly felt affirmed by what Riley’s Way team members, Stephanie Kingston and Laura Dunn, told us: once you’re a part of Riley’s Way, you always will be. The weekend left me feeling inspired to become a better version of myself, and to always strive towards kindness as a change propellant.