Youth Team anniversary

Am going home for a reunion and a book event this weekend, so am feeling pretty nostalgic. That means this week we're going to get a little retro. Enjoy :)

Occasionally on this blog I'll talk about my love for women's issues, identity, LGBT folk, and other topics relating to social justice. Something I haven't talked much about is how all of that started for me.

I was a nerdy kid. We'd moved around a lot, and changed schools a lot (8 schools in K-12!) so I never really had a chance to find my people. My posse, the ones who'd stick up for one another and anti-bully for one another. It was rough. I'd always fought it in my own ways, by doing things like sticking up for those who were getting teased more, etc but that would only work for a short time until I ended up switching schools again.

In the 7th grade I saw a "Differences: Gotta Have 'Em!" presentation by the ARCh Youth Team and suddenly that changed a bit. Here were people who recognized that it was ok to be geeky, or chubby, or have a disability. The presentation made a huge impact on me and I immediately joined the Youth Team. I spent many, many, many hours volunteering for the organization through the rest of middle and high school.
A group of us after a Differences: Gotta Have 'Em! presentation 
The Youth Team not only does presentations, but also monthly get-togethers with teens who have disabilities, and workshops on Shaken Baby Syndrome. We once did a prayer service at my HS for victims of child abuse, and I hear they are using the text I wrote for that in presentations even today. It is very much a theory-to-practice group, where middle and high school students learn what standing up for what you believe in is really all about.

Me, performing the Balloons skit
Differences presentations were about acknowledging and celebrating the differences and similarities among us all. They were about bullying, about respect, and about learning about people before you judge them. They were the start of my social justice education (though we didn't call it that) and I must have done over 100 of them during my 5 years.

This weekend is the 25th Anniversary of the Youth Team's beginnings. I've somewhat lost touch with them since I graduated from high school and am looking forward to going back, seeing old friends, finding out what the YT is up to these days, and perhaps sharing with its current members the impact that it still has on me today.