YCorps Spotlight: Sarah Neuberger
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 to 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 Sarah Neuberger.
How did you learn about Youth Frontiers’ YCorps?
I first learned about Youth Frontiers’ incredible work as a fifth-grade student on a Kindness Retreat and again as a seventh grader on a Courage Retreat. I remember having a blast playing games, singing and dancing, but I also saw the visible changes in the way we treated each other as classmates after those experiences. Inspired by the fun Retreat Facilitators leading our retreats, I felt committed to making our school community a better place for everyone.
Years later, as a college student researching cyberbullying and its impact on student achievement, I interviewed a middle schooler who told me that the Youth Frontiers Leadership Conference she had attended helped her recognize the hurt caused by mean words online and the importance of spreading positivity in her class. That conversation reminded me of YF’s important work, and soon after I found the YCorps position on their website. I was instantly hooked!
What’s your favorite part of the job?
I love working with such amazing people and meeting inspirational students each day on retreat. Throughout this experience, I have learned so much from my coworkers and their stories from this job, their passion for the work and their approaches to connecting with students on retreats. I also find myself constantly learning new things from students; from the challenges of being a middle schooler in a technology-driven era to the latest pop culture phenomena, I receive an education every time I enter the doors of a new school.
What surprised you most about the retreats?
I was not prepared for how emotionally invested I could become in each retreat. I feel proud of every student who has the courage to share their commitments in front of their classmates at the end of the day, and I still think of students I have met on retreats long after the day has finished and wish the best for them.
What is your favorite mission moment from the retreats?
I love seeing students who decide that they want to commit to being their true, authentic selves. At the end of a retreat, one student told me, “Thank you for allowing me to turn over a new leaf.” For so many students, our retreats provide an opportunity to reflect on how they are treating their classmates and themselves and how they want to be remembered in their school. I love when students realize that it’s not too late for them to change their reputation and be real with their classmates.
I also enjoy hearing from high school leaders who realize throughout the day how much the younger students look up to them. One high school leader on a Courage Retreat shared, “I want to be a better example for these seventh graders because I see now that I am a leader in my community. And I want to be a positive leader.” When these small-group leaders invest in the day, they help the students have a truly meaningful experience.
What are you learning at Youth Frontiers that you will take with you after your YCorps commitment ends?
Through this YCorps experience, I have gained a greater understanding of the importance of teaming up with schools to help ensure that each student is supported in their educational experience. Despite the fact that many of the academic challenges a student might face inside the classroom are compounded by challenges outside the classroom, we place so much responsibility on teachers and schools to ensure the success of every student. In a constantly evolving world where students are facing new challenges every day, I think that our focus on building character can help equip students with some of the tools they need to address these challenges and find success.
I am also constantly reminded of how much I looked up to and learned from my teachers growing up. I am so grateful to meet teachers each day who are doing the same for their students!
Thank you, Sarah, 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!