This blog post was written by Foster student and YEOC Mentor Khatsini Simani
YEOC Mentors Idowu and Kiseri orchestrated a dynamic October session centered around team building and networking. In their second session of the year, mentees had the opportunity to learn more about each other while sharpening their team building skills. Together they tackled group challenges ranging from “Finish That Lyric” to the human circle “Hula-Hoop Challenge,” where a hula hoop had to be passed around a circle of students as quickly as possible. During each activity, Mentors encouraged their mentees to work inclusively and expanded on the importance of several team building skills including note-taking, organizing, strategizing, delegating tasks and efficient communication. In addition to exercising these skills, each team collectively came up with a unique name and handshake for their group, which they performed in front of the entire program. As you can imagine, there was no lack of creativity or enthusiasm!
October’s theme followed the new slogan for the year: Strength in (blank), where each month we highlight the importance of a concept central to YEOC. Just as team-building and networking were emphasized throughout the day, so was the importance of story-telling and embracing opportunities. In one particular challenge called “Decode It,” students were tasked with unscrambling the words to a famous quote by Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” In my mentee group we took a moment to reflect on the meaning of the quote and whether or not students agreed with the claim. Later, students would have an opportunity to reflect on the power of storytelling again in a personal statement workshop with YEOC Program Director Andy Marzano.
The theme of authentic story telling especially shone through during the keynote presentation delivered by Jai Elliott, YEOC Architect and Talent and Workforce Development Director at Seattle City Light. In addition to sharing the story of YEOC’s beginnings and the substantial growth of the program (today 69 high schools are represented), Ms. Elliott emphasized the importance of utilizing the opportunities YEOC offers. “This program offers as much opportunity as you’re willing to reach out and take…we’re here to support you in whatever you want to do.” Ms. Elloitt concluded her talk with a Q and A during which she shared advice with students eager to take on leadership roles. One student was preparing to start a non-profit, the other, an affinity club at a school with little support. Her advice? Decide which method of change you want to use to accomplish your goals. Find your passion and share it as you would your story. To paraphrase Ms. Elloitt’s words does not give justice to the delivery of her own story and the power of her encouraging words.
The arc of energy continued in red-carpet fashion, as Mentors and MiTs teamed up to showcase their professional attire in the YEOC fashion show of the year. Mentors dressed for a gamut of occasions ranging from smart casual to business professional. Each person shared how they brought their individual style and personality to their professional wardrobe while remaining cognizant of their budget and comfort. Program Director Andy Marzano followed the fashion show with an engaging personal statement workshop centered around authentic story-telling during. For some, this workshop served as a follow up to the morning drop-in lab, where Mentors gave students feedback on their personal statement drafts thus far. Whether a sophomore or a senior, there was a something valuable to take away from the workshop. Notably, Andy reminded all mentees “…the prompt does not define your story. You define your story.”
Mentors Abel and Mike present during the YEOC Fashion Show
The day culminated with our first Real Talk session, a time set aside for mentees to ask Mentors questions ranging from school life to current events in a safe space. While mentees are welcome to ask us questions at any time, Real Talks offer a unique opportunity to collectively share ideas and build a support network across mentees and Mentors. Whether during the one-on-one meetings with Mentors, or the team building activities, October’s session cultivated mentorship and community across Mentors, MiTs, and students like—a strong foundation for the transformative experiences to come.
Photos courtesy Khatsini Simani
The mission of the YEOC (Young Executives of Color) program is to cultivate the academic potential of underrepresented high school student leaders in Washington State through college preparation, powerful mentorship, and the development of real life business skills. Find out more about the YEOC program on the Foster website. Follow YEOC on Facebook and Instagram: @yeocuw.