YCorps Spotlight: Abdul Sesay
We are so grateful for our wonderful staff at Youth Frontiers (YF), from our full-time and part-time employees to our YCorps. The Youth Frontiers YCorps (Youth Corps) is a five-month internship program that gives emerging leaders the opportunity to facilitate, along with our full-time staff, life-changing retreats for schools all over the upper Midwest. As our current YCorps’ time with Youth Frontiers ends after the winter holidays, we wanted to celebrate their skills and stories on our blog as a six-part spotlight Q&A series. Our next YCorps in the spotlight is Abdul Sesay.
How did you learn about Youth Frontiers’ YCorps?
I found YF in 2005 when I was in fourth grade. I had recently moved to Minnesota from Sierra Leone, and I was having a hard time making friends. At the Youth Frontiers Kindness Retreat that all changed. The retreat gave me the chance to open up to the other students in my class, and they learned that even though I was from a different place and had an accent, I was also like them: a kid who wanted to belong. Then, to my great surprise, Youth Frontiers presented me with their 2005 Kindness Award. When my teacher told my class the news, I felt truly seen for the first time by my peers. I remained in touch with YF since then, and when one of the Retreat Musicians encouraged me to get involved with the YCorps, I took a shot. Now here I am!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of this job is the students! I love working with diverse groups – the students who attend our retreats have different personalities and nationalities – and it makes me happy to see them learning and growing together.
What surprised you most about the retreats?
The sharing at the end of the day gets me every time. The retreats provide a safe place for students to share their thoughts and feelings, and they also inspire the students to improve their schools. I am often amazed by what the kids have to say. Also surprisingly, I have learned to appreciate school food again. It’s part of the job description.
What is your favorite mission moment from the retreats?
Recently on retreat, “the new kid” stood up and shared that he’s having a really tough time at his school and started crying. This student said that sometimes he wonders if it is worth it to keep going on. As he moved to sit back down, all of his peers started getting up to share too. As they stood, one by one, they began to encircle the boy. By the end of sharing, every single seventh-grader in the room was surrounding the boy. Soon everyone was crying, and a transformation took place. The boy had started the retreat as the new kid, but by the end of the retreat, he was welcomed as part of the class.
What are you learning at Youth Frontiers that you will take with you after your YCorps commitment ends?
Being part of the YCorps really pays off in so many ways. Each retreat is like a small intervention, reminding me to follow through on my own “acts of courage” in daily life. I will take the perspective I have gained from this experience with me wherever I go.
Thank you, Abdul, for all that you have contributed to the YF team and for helping keep our mission in motion. We look forward to seeing what you do next!