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Know Your “Why”: Youth Build Leadership Skills at Spring Conference

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three youth smiling at the conference

What follows is a guest blog post written by CeCe Horbat, the Diversity, Equity, & Multiculturalism Coordinator at Spectrum.


On May 6th, 2017, we hosted the Youth Leadership Conference at Champlain College. Created by our Multicultural Youth Program, the conference is designed for youth to have fun and learn, while also providing the support they need to build successful leadership skills.

To make it happen, we collaborated with many amazing community partners, including Northwest Counseling Support Services; Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health; Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront; Burlington Community and Economic Development Office; and Champlain College.

Our Youth Advisory Committee designed the whole conference, choosing everything from the t-shirt design to the workshops, from our amazing keynote speaker, Rebecca Eun Mi Haslam (Vermont’s Teacher of the Year), to our Snapchat geotag for the day! In order for the event to be a success, it had to be by youth and for youth.

Haslam smiling.

Catherine, left, of the Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront; and Rebecca Eun Mi Haslam

Almost 100 youth, ages 14-24, participated in the day, learning about themselves and each other. Haslam kicked off the day by sending us the important message: “Know your why, and remember that you are the only one in control of where you’re headed.

Some of the day’s most popular workshops were led by youth: “LGBTQ Intersectionality,” “Conversations about Racism,” “Breaking Down Cultural Barriers,” and “Spoken Book.” And many other community partners, like the Fletcher Free Library, The Peace and Justice Center, Opportunities Credit Union, and Parents and Youth for Change led fun, engaging workshops.

After lunch, youth explored over 30 organizations, service providers and post-secondary opportunities in a resource fair. Special thanks to ACLU, Vermont Tech, Vermont Works for Women, “I am Vermont, Too,” and Vermont Adult Learning, just to name a few.

In order for the event to be a success, it had to be by youth and for youth.

We finished the jam-packed day by reading a Letter of Support from Senator Bernie Sanders (though he wasn’t able to make it!) and holding a raffle drawing for prizes to local businesses. To our amazing community raffle prize partners like Old Spokes Home, City Market, YMCA, Burlington Electric, the staff at TJMaxx and many, many more, we thank you for your amazing support.

The conference was successful and empowering because of the support of people like you. We’re looking forward to an even bigger and better conference in 2018. In the meantime, you can find us on Facebook to see photos and stay up-to-date on how you are helping. Huge thanks to all who believe in our youth!

CeCe Horbat, left, and Emmajane Hoffman, of the Multicultural Youth Program.

CeCe Horbat, left, and Emmajane Hoffman, of the Multicultural Youth Program.


CeCe Horbat is the Diversity, Equity and Multiculturalism Coordinator at Spectrum, as well as the AmeriCorps member serving in our Multicultural Youth Program.

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