YCorps Spotlight: Anna Skemp
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 Anna Skemp.
How did you learn about Youth Frontiers’ YCorps?
It might sound cliché, but I did not find Youth Frontiers – Youth Frontiers found me. Yes, it’s true! Nine years ago, three Retreat Facilitators inspired me during an eighth-grade Courage Retreat. Then as an 11th grader, I attended another Courage retreat, that time as a small-group leader. Finally, I concluded my high school career with YF’s Wisdom Retreat. Immediately after that retreat, I approached the YF staff and asked how I could become a part of their team. They told me to go to college and look up YF after I graduated. I did exactly that!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love it when a student undergoes an 180-degree change. Often, the kids that don’t want to be at the retreat in the morning share powerful stories and show great resolve to improve their schools by the afternoon. To me, the retreats are magical. It’s amazing to have a job that constantly inspires me.
What surprised you most about the retreats?
I was surprised by how relevant the content is for everyone at all ages. We can all relate to the students when they share their desire to be kinder, to act with courage or to show respect. Their words remind us how to treat others well and how to live our lives well. I was not prepared for how the retreats have affected me. I came into this experience thinking that kids need YF retreats – but really, we all need these retreats.
What is your favorite mission moment from the retreats?
Our team traveled to Madison, Wisconsin to do a Courage Retreat for seventh graders. As we arrived, a teacher approached us and said that a new student, who had just moved from Texas, would be attending. The Courage Retreat would be his first day with his new classmates. We were not told which student he was. At the beginning of the retreat, we played a game and chose a student from the crowd to assist us. At lunch, the teachers asked how we knew to pick the new student. We had no idea that we had, but we were thrilled that he enjoyed the game. At the end of the day, I watched the new student grappling with the idea of getting up to share. Suddenly he stood, walked to the center of the circle and said, “My act of courage is to stand up for those being bullied because no one deserves to be treated like that. So I will look out for it.” As he set the mic down, he let a huge sigh out. The new student had just become a leader for his class on his first day of school. For me, that student embodied the value of courage. I feel lucky to witness amazing feats like this every week with great kids.
What are you learning at Youth Frontiers that you will take with you after your YCorps commitment ends?
I’m learning how to communicate with different age groups from fifth graders to adults, and my skills have improved immensely. Most importantly, I’m learning so much about myself through this YCorps experience. We talk to others about kindness, courage and respect on retreat, and it’s causing me to reflect more on how I live out those values in my life. I’m incredibly grateful for this experience.
Thank you, Anna, 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!