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Thanks and Gratitude

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During this month of thankfulness and gratitude, I’m lucky to have plenty in my life to be grateful for.  I am in good health, I am in graduate school to be a teacher, and I have a wonderful family and some of the best friends in the world.  I am also lucky enough to work with an outstanding program that has brought an immense amount of joy into my life, not to mention some of those other things that I am grateful for.

Youth to Youth (Y2Y) has made and continues to make a huge impact on my life, even as an adult.  There are many ways that this very special program has changed me for the better.  I am more self-confident, more outgoing, and more willing to look to the brighter side of life.  I am supremely grateful for these positive changes I have gone through, starting at the age of 16 and continuing now with my work in the program.  However, the thing that I am most grateful for is the people that I have been introduced to through Youth to Youth and the transformations they have worked in my life.  I love these people and they have made such an impressive positive impact in my life.  I hope they end up reading this and feel that love and that joy and it makes them think back and remember.  And give thanks.

First and foremost, Ty Sells is the Director of Training in Columbus, Ohio.  He has a talent and a gift that shines.  His humor, wit, and intelligence make him a little intimidating at first, but he has a huge heart to match his huge presence, which is not a jab.  He has made an impressive and lasting impact on my life.  I thank him every day I’m in graduate school.  You see, he wrote me the most wonderful and special letter of recommendation that, I believe, single-handedly got me accepted into my current program of study.  The amount of himself that he gives to the program is absurd and I cannot comprehend where he finds the energy and focus year after year to gift the world with his skill.  Ty, thank you.

Next, we have Cheryl Campbell, the Program Director.  There are not enough words to explain what she does for the program, partially because, other than running the Eastern States conference, a yearly summer conference held in Rhode Island, I don’t know what she does in Ohio.  That’s not to say that she’s forgettable, though she does work behind-the-scenes.  This amazing woman is glue.  She keeps everything together, she keeps the program together, and she keeps the joy and heart in the program.  She shines.  She is the reason Y2Y Eastern States has made an impact in my life.  Without her love for this work, I would not have been inspired to love this work.  Whenever I see her, for one week every year, she glows.  That light infuses those people around her and I know I am better because of it.  Cheryl, thank you.

Bill Yoder, a volunteer Adult Staff at Eastern States conference, you are an inspirational teacher.  I am honored to have gotten to know you these past few years and be lightly nerdy when no one was looking.  The thing I dislike most about you is that I never had the opportunity to be your student in high school.  Your influence as an adult, a father, and an educator has tremendously shifted my future onto the path I am on currently.  I have never told you this, but you have changed me for the better simply by being engaged in those around you, including myself.  Bill, thank you.

Family Group 31, also known as the Adult Staff at the conference.  You see, at conference, all who attend are split into Family Groups with people from many different communities to discuss the day, process speakers and activities, and to have fun.  This is the same at all the yearly conferences.  Eastern States is only one of three major conferences held throughout the summer.  There are also many mini conferences that occur within smaller community groups throughout the year.  Family Group 31 is the Adult Staff family at Eastern States.  Conference is our family reunion.  It is an odd family we have, but all are welcome and all are accepted here.

When not at conference, we have several text messaging groups to keep in touch with each other, to remind ourselves of the magic and the connection we share at conference.  Family Group 31 members live all over the country, from Rhode Island to Ohio to Florida.  Though every Adult Staff is gladly welcomed into our ever growing family, there are a few people I need to mention for the impact they have made on my life.  We all are accepted here is not something I knew growing up and something I struggled with immensely, something many people go through in high school.  What no one tells you is that the struggle of being accepted by others doesn’t end when you become an adult.  These people have not simply changed my life, but have saved it.

Ike Purington, thank you.  Wayne Purington, thank you.  Ryan O’Sullivan, thank you.  Damon DiSabato, thank you.  Andrew Kerr, thank you.  Dee Price, thank you.  Jacq Hackett, thank you.  Phil Durrant, thank you.  Theresa Marino, thank you.  Amanda DeLauder, thank you.  If I didn’t mention your name, I apologize profusely; I have so many words left to say and not much space to say it.

Jen Wall, former Director of the now extinct program DICE.  I’m sitting here looking at my keyboard and I cannot accurately express the difference you have made in me.  You have been involved in over half my life and you are one of the best friends and people I have ever known.  You introduced me to a world of giving and service that I would never have experienced otherwise.  I cannot express the words to tell you how much I love you and am happy for you to be a guiding beacon in my life.  Jen, thank you.

Youth to Youth is a program that is youth-led and adult-guided.  What no one told me and what I never expected was that the program has guided me for over 11 years now.  All are accepted here.  Youth to Youth, thank you for all that you have done for my life, the lives of others, and for the impact you will continue to have in the future.  Thank you.

– Kevin Dias, November 2015

If you would like to share why you “give thanks”  for your involvement in Youth to Youth , please email jsmock@youthtoyouth.net and we will submit as part of November’s Y2Y THANKS & GRATITUDE BLOG

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