YCorps Spotlight: Maggie MacLennan
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 seven-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. The YCorps do a lot to further our mission, so we want to celebrate their skills and stories on our blog in a five-part spotlight Q&A series. Our fourth YCorps member in the spotlight is Maggie MacLennan.
How did you learn of Youth Frontiers?
I have been familiar with Youth Frontiers since I was in fifth grade when I attended the Kindness Retreat® at Normandale Elementary School. Even at that age, I was completely blown away by how amazing the day was.
What’s your favorite part of facilitating retreats?
My favorite part of this job is that every single day I get to connect with amazing students, teachers and Youth Frontiers staff who help me to learn and further develop my skills as a youth worker. Each day feels different. Every day I leave feeling so grateful to be a part of an organization that is working incredibly hard to make a difference. Also, I work with a group of extremely talented individuals who are intelligent, caring and skilled people. The amount I learn from them each day is amazing.
What’s something that surprised you about the job?
What surprised me was how I came to measure the success of a retreat. I was expecting to base the success of a day solely on the outcome of the sharing time at the end of the day. If there was a group that didn’t share as much as I would have hoped, I thought this would make me feel discouraged. Instead, I quickly started to find wins in other parts of the day. I realized that just because a particular class doesn’t share very much (which makes sense because it can be a really scary thing to speak on a microphone in front of your classmates) doesn’t mean that we haven’t made a difference or an impact that day. I began to look for amazing moments throughout the entirety of the day, not just at the end.
What is a favorite retreat story of yours?
Although I believe that every retreat brings invaluable lessons to students, my favorite messages are the ones from the Courage Retreat®. Seventh and eighth grades can be some really, really tough years. YF addresses that. We acknowledge that it isn’t easy to face your everyday fears and that it takes courage to follow your heart and to listen to yourself instead of the crowd. I think that is so important. It reassures students as they face challenges at a difficult stage of life. It really hits home for me because I really struggled with my identity in middle school.
One of my favorite moments from a retreat this year happened at a Kindness Retreat in Wisconsin. There was a fifth-grade student who was deaf. Throughout the day, her interpreter was up at the front of the room with us in order to translate to her what we were saying on the microphones. I felt really inclined to connect with this student in some way, so I had a conversation with her interpreter about how to tell her that I liked her shoes. The interpreter showed me how to tell her this, and we were able to have a short conversation with the few signs I knew. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. There have also been countless times when I have felt moved and inspired by a student; it pretty much happens on a daily basis.
What are you learning at Youth Frontiers that you will take with you after your YCorps commitment ends?
As a YCorps, I am learning invaluable life skills. I am developing my abilities to speak publically, connect with students on a personal level, communicate and problem solve. I am becoming more confident and furthering my emotional and professional development. I am also realizing the standard of organizations that I want to be affiliated with later on in my life. YF has taught me that I should feel supported, advocated for and challenged to grow at all times, and that has truly been an amazing thing.
Every single one of my coworkers at Youth Frontiers, both Retreat Staff and Office Staff, blow me away with their passion for helping others and their dedication to this job. The work is important and inspiring, and I am so lucky to be a part of it!
This week’s Character Challenge was about making tough decisions. How do you handle these situations?
I typically make tough decisions by consulting those people in my life who I feel know me well. Once I am able to talk through these potential decisions with them, I feel more confident about whatever I decide to do. Talking to those who know me and who want the best for me makes it much easier for me to work through hard decisions.
Thank you, Maggie, for all that you have contributed to the YF team and for helping us accomplish our mission.