A Donor’s Perspective on Leadership and Youth Frontiers
The following content is taken from an interview with Ann Miller, 100th Anniversary Project Manager at Liberty Diversified International and long-time supporter of Youth Frontiers.
How did you first connect with Youth Frontiers?
We’ve been supporting YF for, gosh, I don’t even know how many years. I don’t know exactly how my parents, Mike and Linda Fiterman, found the Youth Frontiers mission, but they’ve believed in it a long time. I got more involved in it through my career at Liberty Diversified International (LDI), and my daughter’s been connected through living exactly what they do. And so even though all three generations of our family are highly energized and engaged with Youth Frontiers’ mission, I think we are engaged for different reasons. In the last five years, we’ve really put that partnership on steroids because we think that it’s needed more now than ever.
For us, it’s all about leadership and it’s about legacy. And the leadership piece is how do we create stronger leaders not only at LDI, our company, but how do we create stronger future leaders? And what better way to create that legacy than with kids. And when we thought about how do we create this lasting legacy of leadership we knew Youth Frontiers was just a super partner for us.
What Youth Frontiers programs do you support?
We really wanted to support all the programs in the schools that Youth Frontiers offers, and then the bonus this past year was really how Youth Frontiers is thinking outside of the box in terms of just leadership in general. When we invited Joe to speak to our leaders last spring about this concept of presence and authenticity and untethering ourselves from our technology to truly be authentically present, that really resonated with us as a family and with us as a company. Our leaders really enjoyed hearing that message and continue to pass it on to their own students today. It’s just been a really nice full-circle partnership around leadership and legacy.
Can you expand on how your daughter is involved with Youth Frontiers?
My daughter, Eve, is in middle school. Last year, she celebrated her bat mitzvah, which is a major Jewish milestone and a rite of passage. And part of her reaching that — she really looked inside and thought not only, “How can I become a bat mitzvah?” but also, “How can I make my world a little bit better?”
She noticed that at her middle school, there was some unkind behavior, some exclusion, some people feeling left out. And when she came home, she thought, “Maybe there’s something I can do about it.” It was just the logical choice to introduce her to Karen (Youth Frontiers Donor Relations Department Manager) and Youth Frontiers to think about fundraising the money and organizing the Courage Retreats at her school at Maple Grove.
It was just a beautiful connection in our family around how do we take one of our next generation and really empower them to ignite courage and kindness in their own life. It was life-changing for her, working with your staff, life-changing for her to flex her fundraising muscles, her advocacy muscles, her leadership muscles and being able to really make a true difference in her school that she still sees today. It helped her build some major confidence in knowing that when you have a vision, when you have a dream, you can absolutely make it happen. It makes it a lot easier to accomplish when you partner with the experts like Youth Frontiers.
Youth Frontiers did a great job of providing Eve with support without removing responsibility or ownership, really making her feel like she was in the driver’s seat, and she was. She truly, truly was. So that’s why we continue to believe in it, support it and just do whatever we can to help Youth Frontiers win.
What makes Youth Frontiers different from other youth organizations?
I think Youth Frontiers is very different. I actually feel very lucky. I’m also in the learning and development stage in my career and so I see how grownups learn, and it’s actually not that different from how kids learn. Human beings learn through experience, through connection and also through a lot of fun. Youth Frontiers is able to bridge all those things: take really, really juicy content and present it in a way that’s fun, that’s meaningful, that’s uncomfortable at times and very eye-opening. I think it removes kids from their typical, traditional space, puts them in a new environment, where it just opens up their minds to a new way of thinking. I think that’s why it works. We don’t have to choose between learning and fun. We can have both. And Youth Frontiers just does a great job of knowing when to insert the fun in so that learning can happen, and when to get serious as well. We can take this work seriously without taking ourselves so seriously. I think it starts right with Joe (Youth Frontiers Founder & CEO), who is forever, you know joking and pranking and laughing but at the same time understands that this is serious work to be done and we can have fun doing it.
What do you think about the new educator programming Youth Frontiers is developing?
I’m really excited about that. I think that’s the one thing that was keeping Eve up at night: “Okay, I’ve put all this time and energy into raising the money for the retreats, the retreats happened and they were so life-changing. I think we have a common language, but now what? What tools do the teachers have to continue this?” I know that there are some follow-up materials, but I think really putting that educator program on steroids and really investing more into how we are equipping teachers to succeed with this content, I think is the right move and it makes perfect sense. I think the job of teachers today is harder than it’s ever been and more complex, but if given the right support, like Youth Frontiers is proposing to do, I think it can be very valuable. I think the new programming can help teachers understand the power they have to truly change the lives of these young people at a time when they wonder if they’re getting through to them. It’s absolutely the right strategic direction, and we’ll continue to support it.