From Leaders Club to Leader
Leaders Club has been a part of the YMCA since 1885. Over the years it has proven to be a valuable tool in the development of leadership skills in teens and is one of the Y’s key programs in the area of youth development. Members of the Leaders Club develop leadership skills through training in physical education, working with children, and learning to work as a team of like-minded teens committed to their community. During the year,
Meet Will Zazynski. At the age of 13, the youngest age allowed in the Leaders Club, Will signed up. He was unsure of himself and had no real experience volunteering or growing his skills. Here is his story of growth and development through his experience.
One of the best decisions I have ever made was joining the YMCA’s Teen Leaders Club. Much like how the YMCA promotes personal growth through a healthy mind and body, Leaders Club creates personal growth through leadership development. Not only is it a resume builder, and something that stands out on a college application, but it also teaches you to lead by serving others through community projects. This is something you can use throughout life, especially when you start a career. Though I give credit to Leaders Club for the many opportunities and experiences it has afforded me (I now work part-time at the Y and help to coach youth sports) I was not always eager to be a part of it. In fact, the day I started Leaders Club and learned that the goal was to work towards pushing new personal limits and stepping out of your comfort zone was the same day I decided I wanted out! As a socially awkward tween, I had no interest in volunteerism and leadership, nor did I understand the positive impact I could have on my community and an emerging leader.
But halfway through my first year in Leaders Club, things started to take a turn. We got a new advisor, Jeanette, who had a significant impact on my experience and I began to recognize the leadership qualities and abilities that I possessed. I will never forget her words of encouragement when she approached me about returning the following year—she said, “Will, in order to achieve in life, you need to get out of your comfort zone.” I didn’t realize it at first, but those words would help me in times of self-doubt and uncomfortable situations.
I like to refer to the next year as my “breakout year.” We volunteered every weekend at events such as youth basketball, soccer, parent’s night out, and fundraising car washes. I accumulated over 150 volunteer hours by the beginning of that summer. That same year my peers dubbed me the club’s MVP. That was one of the greatest moments of my life. To be recognized for my efforts and to see how far I had come was an incredible feeling. And to think I wanted nothing to do with any of it just months before! My ability to push myself personally and among others motivated me, and my efforts paid off—the following year I was nominated the Fitness Chair on our Executive Board.
Brianna Sexton, one of our most dedicated leaders at the Y shared with me that, “Over the past eight years, Leaders Club has presented me the opportunity to learn more about myself as an individual and a servant leader. I believe that I have become a stronger, more confident woman because of the support of my advisors and executive directors who pushed me to explore opportunities beyond my comfort level.” I could not agree with Brianna more, which is why one of my long-term goals is to continue to grow the community through my work with the YMCA.
Some people say that Disney world is the most magical place on earth; those people must have never been to a YMCA before. I am forever grateful for the Leader’s Club.