KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Studying or even just traveling in a different country usually is a big eye-opener. This week's FOX 4 Young Achievers sure had their eyes opened -- along with their minds -- this summer in Europe as they joined youth from 62 nations for an 11-day global conference. And in the process, they became leaders of the world, bringing understanding and solutions back home to Kansas City.
Team building. It's a big part of what goes on when the YMCA of Greater Kansas City Young Achievers get together. They are middle school and high school students who are very focused on their futures. The Y brings them together on weekends for all sorts of seminars and classes, tutoring, demonstrations and skills enhancement so they can excel in school and then go on to college and successful professional careers.
"It's really being a leader," said YMCA Young Achiever Patrick Robey. "And showing how much of an impact we can make on people's lives and helping the community."
Leadership in the Y and its programs and leadership in society. And four YMCA Young Achievers really have stepped forward in that. Park Hill South High School student Patrick Robey, Paseo Academy student Jessica Moreno, Lincoln Prep Academy student Erin Richardson and Winnetonka High School student Alonzo Bell traveled with a group from the Greater Kansas City Y this summer to Prague, Czech Republic for the YMCA Europe Festival, a major conference involving 6000 teens and young adults from all around the globe.
"Wow! These four were amazing in Prague," said Garrett Webster. Webster is the director of the Greater Kansas City YMCA's Young Achiever program. He traveled with the Young Achievers to Prague.
"I was impressed," said Webster. "They showed me some things that I didn't know they had inside of them. And I saw them grow in that 11 day time. They became leaders. They reached out. They made connections with other teens from, wow, 62 different countries. And they really brought some things back to Kansas City that we can install and instill in our teens in Kansas City with the Young Achievers program."
In Prague, the YMCA Young Achievers transformed themselves from local leaders to world leaders, tackling some of the toughest global problems and challenges. Workshops, networking and strategic planning on homelessness, poverty, education and many more global issues got these teens from the middle of America personally engaged with youth from around the world, giving them new a point of view to see the world in a much different way.
"The people, you wouldn't think they would have the same background or like the same things you do, but they did," said YMCA Young Achiever Erin Richardson.
"What I would take away from the trip is just being more open," said YMCA Young Achiever Jessica Moreno. "I've often been very closed-minded. And just being more open to meeting new people and other people's opinions and other people's lifestyles."
"It was important because this was my first time really getting out of Kansas City," said YMCA Young Achiever Alonzo Bell. "The impact was, kind of opening up to people."
"I think it's going to shape me by making me a better person and changing my perspective," said YMCA Young Achiever Patrick Robey.
"Once you take someone on a global mission, it really just expands their mind and unleashes things within them that they really don't know and it allows them to go further in life," said Webster.
"So it was just something that was great and I feel like we, if we all came together like that again, we could change the world," said Erin. And make a world of difference.
The Y Europe Festival happens just every five years but Young Achievers now are developing a Global Leaders program. Local Global Leaders will connect with teens in a YMCA in a foreign country over a year long project and that will culminate with a trip to that country and a week long service-learning project. Discussions are underway with South Africa, Mexico and the United Kingdom for that.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.