Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Free Community For Youth lunch that will feed your soul

Community For Youth changes lives.  I know -- it's changed mine!  

Personal Integrity.  The CFY curriculum and core values have challenged the students in the community as well as mentors like me to be our best selves.  When I started, I didn't challenge myself with clear life goals and share them with others.  I was too afraid of opening myself up to the shame of failure.  However, through CFY, I've come to learn that sharing goals with a powerful community that can support you is exactly what can actually increase your chances of success.  You learn to be more accountable to yourself by being accountable to a supportive community.  And this has bled over into my daily life so much that even for small commitments, I maintain personal integrity.  "Darn, I did say that I was going to bike to work tomorrow.  Guess I have to suck it up and do it."

Authenticity.  I didn't realize how much compartmentalization went on in my head regarding how I presented myself to others.  We learn together how much more pleasant it is to be your own true self and how richer your connections are when you are not holding back or censoring yourself unnecessarily or trying to be someone you are not.  "You let your students see your Facebook posts?"  Sure.  What I post and what I believe are important to me and I only share what interests me.  Who I am or believe should not be something that I have to parcel out in small doses to particular people.  It's much freer to just be myself.  How do people know they have something in common if they don't share of themselves anyway?

Vulnerability.  I felt somewhat comfortable in front of crowds, strangers talking about something abstract or technical.  But CFY challenged everyone, including mentors, to share openly as your true authentic self.  "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable", we say.  That was initially a very difficult thing for me to get used to, "You want me to talk about personal front of everyone?"  But you quickly find that, as social animals, human relationships are strengthened by vulnerability because it cuts through the pretense and superficiality that we often use when interacting with others -- that's not authentic and it shields you from truly connecting with others on a deeper level.  Oh, and one of the biggest ways this has always manifested itself in my live is my reluctance to ask for help and instead go-it-alone.  I've definitely gotten better at realizing when I need help -- not perfect -- but better.

There are many, many other ways that I've changed.  And I have seen my students and other students change as well because of CFY.  It truly does change your life and although you don't always get direct evidence of it, the student's lives are changed as well.

The most moving experience of a transformation I can recall from my 8 years with CFY was when a student who had been paralyzed by fear when speaking in front of crowds was encouraged to perform her spoken word poetry in front of the whole community at one of our weekend retreats.  It took her a while to warm up to the idea and when she started speaking, my jaw dropped.  She gradually transformed into a confident young woman creatively and boldly expressing herself through her words -- compelling us to feel them as she felt them.  She said later that she was incredibly nervous but honestly I had no idea.  You could hear a pin drop in that room.  Everyone was blown away in rapt attention.  That was a turning point for her.  From that point, she was able to challenge herself more and grow into a real leader with things to say and express with less and less fear.  Truly inspiring.

That kind of growth and moving experiences is one of the most rewarding aspects.  But even the challenges are rewarding.  You are faced with situations and kids in situations that you never had to face in your life.  Sometimes you're thinking, "What the f* do I do with that?"  But, you have a supportive community to help find ways of dealing with those solutions.  Then that experience of tackling and possibly overcoming that challenge just makes you more ready for the next challenge in your own life.

Share in the Community Experience

This upcoming year will mark 9 years as a mentor with Community For Youth (CFY).  It is impossible to sum up the impact that CFY has had on the community, the students it serves, and the mentors (especially myself) in a simple blog post.  But there is an opportunity coming up that is far better that I hope you take me up on:  come have a free lunch downtown Seattle on September 30th and learn about CFY, hear from the 2013-2014 mentors of the year, and on top of that, you get to hear from Seahawks wide receiver, Doug Baldwin.

The lunch is an opportunity for those who might know that I'm involved with Community For Youth but may not quite know what it's all about.  I absolutely love CFY and would appreciate any opportunity to share my experiences for others to see how impactful the program is.  You can sign up at and join me at my table.

Get inspired

In a student's own words, on the importance of CFY to their life.
"I appreciate the work that everyone has contributed in one way or another, to keep this program alive. Because there are teenagers like me, who need people, even if it’s just one person, to believe in them." - See more at:
Even if you can't join, you should take some time to watch this 12-minute video to learn about who we serve from the students and mentors that are part of this powerful community.  And if you're feeling moved or generous or both, you can head on over and donate to Community For Youth too!
Community For Youth from Greg Hay on Vimeo.