Emerging Voice 2015: Child & Youth Services

Emerging Voice 2015: Child & Youth Services

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Guest Post from 2015 Emerge Graduate Mark Santos.
 Mark is a Client Value Specialist at Spiceworks.



This video on Child Youth Services was prepared by a team who examined aspects of this issue in our community. Please take a minute to watch.

Experiencing the agony of defeat in a stadium full of 75K people after a last second buzzer beater during this year’s College Basketball National Championship reminded me of how the sports we play as children allow us to shape our character.  As the stadium erupted, I watched my UNC Tar Heels sadly walk back to their coach heartbroken that they had lost the biggest game of their lives.

What most people did not witness, however, was the pride and gratitude of the players in the locker room after the game.  Their star player would go on to say that he would not have traded this experience, this moment for anything despite the loss.  Hearing about the team’s reflection from failure made me think about my youth and what I learned in Leadership Austin to help others create those defining moments.

When I think about what makes Austin great, one of the first things that comes to mind is how athletically driven people are.  While I see people focused on improving themselves physically, I do not often see people tapping that same energy in developing our youth.  Have people forgotten how they needed coaches when they were younger to teach them how to incorporate life’s lessons found in sports?  Or do they seek to maximize personal benefit with the assumption that someone else will handle youth services?  I so often  hear about people’s love for the city, but rarely hear about what people are doing to ensure it’s going to be loved by future generations starting with children and teens. The Child & Youth Services team in my Emerge class helped open my eyes to the opportunities that exist to serve youth and some of the people in our community making a big difference.

The fact of the matter is that many families in Austin simply cannot afford athletic programs, coaches, and exercise facilities that many Austin adults were blessed to have during their youth.  As the city population grows and attention shifts toward other civic needs, funds for child and youth services diminish.  Luckily there are organizations that foster development such as the YMCA and Boy & Girls Clubs at affordable terms.  These organizations thrive in building fundamental programming for kids in a safe learning environment.  Although Austinites can simply write a check, raise funds, or run a race for charity (all great things), organizations for child and youth services need people to volunteer their time and build relationships with kids.  There is no substitute.

Learning how to handle pressure, collaborate with team members, overcome adversity, and of course deal with failure are all elements that can be nurtured in athletics.  Not only did my experience in Emerge drive home how important these skills are in helping to tackle the issues in our community, but it also highlighted that we each have a role we can play.  My classmates drove home the importance of connecting with youth – giving our time, caring and guidance to the next generation – especially those in the hardest situations. With the help of volunteers teaching key life lessons, youths can transfer their intangible skill sets for both academic and career-related situations.  There are great organizations in Austin like LifeWorks that serve foster and at-risk youth and help them on a path to flourishing in the Austin community.  But, those organizations can’t do it alone.  When I look at my life challenges- solving problems with colleagues, building effective presentations, recovering from crushing setbacks- I go back to my roots on what gave me confidence and motivation to continually improve myself.  Leadership Austin and the UNC Tar Heels reminded me to push myself in giving youth the same opportunity in time.

NOTE: The opinions of Leadership Austin alumni, faculty members, and guest bloggers are their own, and do not represent an official position of the organization.

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