At the YMCA, we know that only 17% of teens reported that they felt valued by their community.* In response, our Y collaborated with another strong community partner, AACI, to provide a meaningful program for teens during this difficult time. It was important to that this program was truly led, facilitated and focused on the needs of teens, defined by teens. The YMCA AACI Youth Leadership Council Advisor team created a framework for youth participants to produce Public Service Announcements for teens from start to finish. Teens controlled the process - from deciding which trainings they would like to see, to presenting their work to our partners. Delegation President, Soane Heredia, stated “We all appreciated how you continuously treat us as adults but support the needs we have as teens.” 
John had personal experience with mental health and substance abuse in his life, which drew him to the YMCA AACI Youth Leadership Council. “I have experience with the impact of mental health and substance abuse issues and alleviating that impact on others drove me to interview for Youth Council and run for leadership positions.” Over the course of the program, the YTI Leadership council created over 15 Public Service Announcement (PSAs) targeting teens. These PSAs provided resources for youth to get the help they critically need. As for John, by supporting other teens in his community, he was also able to help himself deal with his own personal struggles. The Youth Council helped fuel his passion for service and community, it helped this participant realize that we all go through similar struggles. And taught him how it is much better to tackle obstacles as a community rather than by ourselves.  
Reaching out to show others that they aren’t alone showed John that he was not alone. “This program developed me as a person and allowed me to help others develop themselves, an endeavor that I strive to uphold for the rest of my life.” A sentiment that embodies the Y and foundation for a strong community in the future.

*taken from 2017 Project Cornerstone Developmental Asset Survey