My name is Rebecca and I have been serving as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center. This spring, Emily, the Youth Program Coordinator, and I had the honor of working with the YMCA Youth Institute. The Youth Institute is a program for teens in Whatcom County to gain skills in college and career readiness through a comprehensive summer program. The group of youth we met with had participated in the Youth Institute last summer and were a part of the Youth Institute’s after-school leadership program. They met every two weeks during the school year to prepare themselves to be leaders and mentors to new Youth Institute participants this summer.
The youth in the after-school program were fun, thoughtful, and authentic. On our first day with them, we introduced them to conflict styles, as well as triggers. The group knew each other so well, they were able to be honest with each other and truly reflect on who they are and what challenges they have.
On our second day with the Youth Institute, we focused on communication, conflict resolution, and traits of a great leader. We discussed some of the most difficult conflicts they had last summer, including making new friends and working on projects together. To get to the root of their issues working on projects, we talked about different assumptions people might make of others’ leadership styles while working together. A solution they arrived at was that understanding of differences is important, even if they don’t know why someone is doing something a certain way. Also, asking more questions and taking a more collaborative approach to projects could make them more cohesive and potentially have less unspoken conflict.