When Rasheeda Russell took her first trip abroad in August, it was a transformative, inspiring experience. But Russell, who spent a week in London and three days in Paris, didn’t spend the bulk of her time in museums, churches or castles.
Instead she joined thousands of other YMCA youth from around the world who gathered to connect and celebrate a milestone anniversary of the organization. The global assembly of 5,000 YMCA student members gave young people the chance to talk about issues affecting the communities in which they live.
And it gave Russell the opportunity to bring her unique Delaware perspective to discussions about issues impacting youth around the globe.
This was the first time YMCA Delaware took teens abroad. Russell traveled with 15 others from Delaware to London, the birthplace of the Y, to participate in Global Teens. The program connected young adults who hope to be change agents in their own communities. The global gathering also marked the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Y.
Participants at the “YMCA175” conference discussed issues ranging from global poverty to environmentalism, mental health, diversity inclusion, even modern-day slavery and sex trafficking.
Russell, age 21, was most interested in modeling a housing program for young adults. She says she would like to bring that pilot program to Delaware.
“I would love to see more housing options for youth aging out of foster care in Delaware. I learned the YMCA is the largest provider of safe, supported accommodations for young people in England and Wales; they offer 9,100 beds,” she said.
As for having the opportunity to attend the London conference followed by a Paris excursion, Russell said, “It was a lot of fun being abroad for the first time…I loved riding through the different neighborhoods, being a tourist, and listening to people with different accents. It was really a culture shock when we had to maneuver around the city (Paris) with everything in French!”
Anesha Truesdale, from the Walnut Street YMCA, supervised Delaware’s teens and said the experience was like none other. “It was amazing to see the teens and young adults genuinely connect with youth from all over the world. The teens are so eager and excited to bring their ideas, plans, and proposals to Delaware, and I am even more thrilled to help them see it through,” Truesdale said.
The YMCA of Delaware is dedicated to providing a safe space and programs where youth have an opportunity to pursue a positive future and take an active role in strengthening his or her community.
Delaware’s Global Teens plan to produce a video documenting their experiences with a viewing on November 6th at the YMCA Heritage Dinner. For more information contact Truesdale at (302) 472-9633 ext 218.