By: Kaya Warrior

ALY, better known as Advancing Leadership Youth, is something I first discovered from my older sister. I was told it was a life changing experience, that I would be exposed to a kind of servant-leadership that would forever make an imprint on my soul. Of course, being the young and inexperienced sophomore I was at the time of applying, I was skeptical and unmotivated to opening myself up in a way I was not used to. I took the initiative to apply anyway (always hoping to live up to my sister’s standards) and fortunately I was selected to be apart of the ALY class of 2013, not knowing this truly life changing journey I was about to embark on.

Before ALY, I can truly say I was a lost soul. I had no idea in the world what I was here for; I had no clue what my purpose was. I was just another teenager walking around this intoxicating society telling me what I should look like, what I should say, how I should act, and who I should surround myself with. ALY reached in and grabbed me out of this mediocre lifestyle I was settling for.

I can remember the opening retreat, showing up and feeling uncomfortable around all of these kids I did not know. It’s funny to think that far back, because now when I arrive to class I join in conversation with any one of the students there and it’s as if we have known each other for a long time. Throughout the yearlong program, I created unbreakable bonds with many of my fellow classmates. We worked tirelessly together for several months on our team project better known as “One Day Federal Way: Mission VolunTEEN.” This consisted of an afternoon spent at Federal Way High School with guest speaker Erin Jones (THE Erin Jones!!!) and an audience of about 100 kids from across the district, an activity about bullying, and finally concluding with an unforgettable pledge presented by myself. Each student in the audience received a bracelet reading, “kindness is cool!” and placed in on their right wrist followed by raising that same right hand and repeating after me: “I pledge to create a safer environment for everyone by being safe, kind, and helpful in and outside of school.”

Later that day, my ALY class got to sit through a council meeting and I presented the pledge to the entire school board… it was so scary but AWESOME all in one! We have continued this “kindness is cool” campaign into the form of an assembly that we present to fourth and fifth graders at local elementary schools. Some of the kids were so moved that they ran up to us after the assembly ended and asked for our autographs (my heart slowly melted from a strong sense of love and connection while signing hands and arms)! We plan to continue these assemblies up until the day we graduate high school.

There is this thing about service that brings people together. I think it is the want and drive to make a difference, the common goal for a greater good. ALY has taught me two really important things. One, it does not matter what age you are when it comes to changing lives. A young child, a teenager, a full grown adult and an old man or woman all have the ability to make someone smile and to make someone feel accepted. The second thing I learned, no act of kindness goes to waste. Whether big or small, one single act of kindness can completely transform someone’s life. Servant-leadership and the experiences I have gone through in Advancing Leadership Youth all tie back to Maya Angelou’s famous quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Kaya is a student and friend of Getting Smart. She is currently enjoying the busyness of Senior Year. 

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