REFLECTIONS from former LYS Delegates on their LYS Experience

Anna's Story

Anna Winter on May 10, 2015 –

After five uneventful hours on the road, I stood there dumbfounded and wondered what I got myself into. Running to grab my bags before I could catch my breath, sweating as they chanted nonsensical words, these smiling college kids welcomed me to the Louisiana Youth Seminar. I was immediately directed upstairs where I was ushered into a dorm room with nineteen other high school students. We sat there staring at each other, and we just burst out laughing, thinking we were in way over our heads.

After the initial shock subsided, I chatted with the other students. As I familiarized myself with the group members I would spend the next six days with, there was something that became very apparent -- no one was formed from the same mold. There was a mix of private and public school kids; we had the starting cornerback, the lead actor, and the sole girl from her high school’s engineering program.

Everyone in our group was dissimilar. How could people who are so different yearn for the same goal? This thought troubled me, and I wondered if I had made the right decision by attending this leadership seminar.

Over the next six days, I would spend an immense amount of time with the other members of my small group. Bombarded with several challenges, we started to develop the tools necessary to become effective leaders. Learning communication skills, overcoming obstacles, meeting deadlines, and being resourceful were a few of the tests that we had to face during that hectic week. Each activity presented new barriers we would have to surmount, and as each activity passed, I realized that various members of the group served as leaders, but in different ways. Sidney was the most outgoing, Kejuan was always there to make a joke, Sam was willing to do the jobs no one else wanted to, Sarah was our great negotiator, Raven was there to keep us on task, my job was to keep everyone’s spirits up. We were all leaders who had found our niche, and it was our differences that allowed the group’s imagination to become a reality.

I used to have a clear image in my head of the perfect leader. They were eloquent speakers with a clear vision of what they wanted, able to tell people what to do so their individual idea became reality. After LYS, I realized there is no perfect leader, but rather characteristics that make great leaders. These are the leaders who think first about others before themselves, who see a problem and become obsessed with fixing it, who know what should be and have the vision to make it a reality. They may not be the most outgoing or have that special something that sets them apart, but these are the leaders worth following, the leaders who strive to make the world a little more extraordinary.

 Every person in my small group had their own experiences, their own expectations, their own aspirations. We were all different, but our goal was the same - we wanted to become leaders worth following. LYS opened the minds of three hundred young people to the possibility of change, but its effect on me was so much greater. I learned that differences are a gateway disguised as an obstacle. Once we learn to see through the facade, a whole new array of relationships and opportunities is made available to us.

So there we were, twenty among three hundred, chanting words that made us smile from ear to ear as we walked back to the dorm hall for the last time. When we came, we were strangers who could not be more different. As we prepared to leave, we were friends who learned to put aside our differences and look at each other, not as the jock or the thespian, but rather a person with a desire to make the world a little more extraordinary.

Lessons Learned

Emily Seabaugh on Aug 12, 2016 –

If you know me, you probably know that I have a passion for a magical program called LYS. I have gone for the last three years. I have learned some incredible lessons. Here is a very detailed list of the ones I consider the most important: 

·      Being your true self is absolutely incredible. At LYS, there is an environment where everyone’s ideas and views are valued. No matter what you are interested in, you can fit in at LYS. Everyone is so accepting of everyone else. The environment has inspired me to carry that “LYS Emily” with me wherever I go.

·      Dreams don’t work unless you do. At LYS, there is an involvement session called “From Dreams to Reality” which has always inspired me. At the 2016 session of LYS, it did something more. This year really opened my eyes to the fact that if you don’t have a plan, then your dream is just a dream. I ended up making a long term plan to make my dream of working for Disney a reality.

·      Eye contact is important. Another session I really love is called “Dyadic Encounter.” This is a session where you have a meaningful conversation with a complete stranger. One of the rules in the session is to try to maintain eye contact as much as possible. My partner was very good at doing that. I realized that I left the conversation feeling better than I did when it began. I figured out that this is because, when you maintain eye contact, it lets the person you are speaking to know that you are listening and care about what they are telling you. I think that something as small as eye contact can go a long way…. Leading me into my next point.

·      A small gesture can go a very long way. Whether it’s a positive or negative gesture, either can go just as far. This year at LYS, I broke my foot, therefore needed a lot of assistance throughout the week. So many people at LYS were kind enough to get me a chair, carry my bags, or even dance with me at banquet. These small gestures made my week at LYS what it was. (The opposite is also true. If you are rude to someone, that could ultimately ruin their day.)

·      Getting out of your comfort zone changes everything.  Walking into LYS, I never expected to be confident enough to give a speech in front of 150+ people, lead chants, or pour my heart into people I met less than a week ago. As the week went on, I: started leading cheers, signed up to run for office, and cried with people I once considered strangers. All this to say that none of those things were origninally in my comfort zone. By the end of the week, they became my favorite things to do. Taking a step out of your comfort zone can mean the difference between a great week and a boring week. Which leads me to the next point...  

·      You can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. There are people who give LYS their all and get really into it, and there are people who are more interested in getting sleep than enjoying LYS. By the end of the week, some people have changed from the uninterested person to the person who is giving LYS their all. However, some are still too concerned with sleeping. I learned that, in the end, you can’t be too concerned with how others are spending their opportunities. You should worry about having the best time for yourself and let them decide for themselves.

·      Joy and enthusiasm are contagious. The LYS councilors and returning delegates are super pumped about everything. This joy then spreads to the new delegates who then spread it to other new delegates and so on. This is a phenomenon described in one of my favorite cheers as “that LYS Feeling.” When you’re at LYS, you can’t help but feel “that LYS Feeling” of joy and enthusiasm.

·      The best friends are the unexpected ones. As said before, I broke my foot at LYS this year, so I got the LYS medical team to help me out. Also, many awesome councilors and delegates helped me out throughout the week as well. I became so close with so many councilors and delegates and all of them mean so much to me. They made LYS 2016 what it was. 
My point is that I did not expect to break my foot or have the chance to talk to many   of them as I walked into LYS 2016. I’m honestly thankful for my injury because without it, I wouldn’t have made as many special friends.

·      Do not let one small problem keep you from enjoying your experiences. With the broken foot scenario, there were moments when I wanted to pack up and go back to Shreveport. There were many more moments when there was a little voice inside my head telling me that I should stay because LYS is truly worth it. I am thankful that I stayed because, despite the injury, LYS 2016 rocked my socks.

·      In order to be a successful leader, you must have integrity, optimism and enthusiasm. This one is pretty self explanatory. Jay Dardenne came to opening convocation this year and gave a speech about qualities all true leaders possess: integrity, optimism, and enthusiasm. These three words were ringing in the back of my head all throughout the week of LYS.

·      No man is an island. Everyone is going through something in their life. Nobody needs any more negativity in their lives than they already have. Instead of being mean to one another, we should encourage each other and spread the love. If we all live out the words, the world would be a much nicer place to live.

Thank You Note to the Camp that Changed my Life

Harper Golsby in 500 Words On on Jul 27, 2015 –

Throughout high school, I attended all kinds of summer camps: math camp, science camp, Girls' State, and others. My favorite by far, though, was Louisiana Youth Seminar or LYS. LYS was, and remains to this day, my favorite place on this planet. It did so much for me, and now I finally get to say thank you. 

Dear LYS -- First off, thank you for all the wonderful memories that I will cherish for years to come. Thank you for the sleep deprivation, the crazy cheers, and the amazing friendships I built in only a week. You did so much for me. You gave me confidence to explore and discover who I truly was instead of simply accepting who I had been told I was supposed to be. You gave me courage to find myself. You brought out a side of me that I never knew existed. A side that was willing to dance in front of others and wasn't afraid that they would laugh. A side that could stand up and give speeches and take charge. A side that wanted to share the joy LYS brought me with the world. You taught me lessons that I still use every day of my life. You taught me that everyone is fighting a battle and everyone has a dream. People are humans; it's as simple as that. And every person you pass on the street has a life as vast and complex and spectacular as your own. Every person you see at the grocery store is fighting some kind of battle in their life. Perhaps it's one with themselves or with another person or with the world as a whole. But no matter the battle, everyone has days where the universe seems to be on the opposing team, and even something as simple as a smile can go a long way. Everyone also has a dream, something they work tirelessly for every single day. Whether it is a dream house or job or family, they get out of bed every day and work towards it. LYS, you showed me that humanity is made of individuals just like me, no matter how different they might seem. Thank you for being my home and my family during some of the most confusing and stressful years of my life. You gave me amazing friends, role models, and sisters (and one wonderful boyfriend). The people you gave me have stood by my side through my best and worst days. They've stood beside me while I celebrated my triumphs and have held my hand while I cried through my worst nights. You taught me that "No man is an island," a quote that hangs framed on my bedroom wall. It serves as a daily reminder to be the best I can be. So thank you for it all. Thank you for the wonderful staff that makes all the magic happen. Thank you for the wonderful delegates who go from strangers to friends to family in just one week. And thank you for Jo Pease, the woman who started it all and continues to be an example to everyone. Thanks for the cheers, the sleepless nights, the pictures, the cheesy pickup lines and your mama jokes. Thank you for the memories and the magic. Thank you.

No man is an island.  LYS love and all of mine--Harper

Kathryn's Story

"My experience at LYS has changed my life completely. I've grown to understand that each individual has their own unique ways of leadership. You may be the type who always is first to help plan a project, and leads everyone from the start. Or, you may be the type who quietly works in the background of it all. Either way, you are a leader, and that is the most important thing I've learned at LYS. You can lead from behind and hold everyone in place. At LYS, you meet a diverse group of people who aid you in this amazing experience. They teach you the importance of friendship. LYS' theme song captures its purpose perfectly, "No man is an island. No man stands alone. Each mans joy is joy to me. Each mans grief is my own. We need one another, so I will defend each man as my brother, each man as my friend."   As a sophomore, junior, and senior I attended LYS, and I wish I could go back forever.

 LYS is a weeklong leadership camp held on the campus of Louisiana State University during the third week in July. During LYS, students go through a series of skill building exercises focused on leadership skills. Through a series of “hands on” experiences, they use their newly developed skills in a group setting to discover that leadership is not merely a matter of position or authority, but a matter of action. Students are encouraged to make a difference and to apply their knowledge and experience in their schools and communities."

The Story of “Faith” as told by Jo Pease

Something unusual happened recently however!  LYS received an email from Faith **(name changed to protect privacy), who went to LYS in 1982 and is a McDonough 35 graduate.  We had not heard from her since 1982.  Here is what she said to us:  “My name is Faith.  I would love to sponsor a delegate to your summer seminar.  I attended LYS in the summer of 1982 and have very fond memories of my week…  I recently found a stack of the daily reports (LYS Daily Newspaper) and read thru them as well as the comments that my group made about me on that final day.  My long ago friends knew I would go on to succeed and to this day I am sure that my interactions with them have helped make me the person that I am. “   

In her second email to us after she made a $1,000 donation, she wrote further:  “I actually still have my pictures of my group and the entire delegation.  I completely went thru the entire website before I decided to make my donation.  It was one of the reasons I decided to make the donation because it brought back very good memories…  A brief summary of what I have been up to:  I graduated first in my class from McDonogh #35 in 19XX; from there I went to Xavier University-New Orleans getting a degree in Chemistry.  In 1988 I started the MD/PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  I earned my MD in 1993 and decided I really wasn’t that great at research and gave up pursuing the PhD.  I did my residency in OB/GYN at the University of Pittsburgh. I moved to Kansas City in 1997 to work in the inner city as a part of the National Health Service Corp.  I joined a private practice in 1999 in a suburb of KC of which I am now part owner.  Through all that I have been married, divorced and am now a single mom of a 7year old daughter.   I have used those leadership skills to be Chief of an OB/GYN department at 2 hospitals; President of the Medical Staff at 1 hospital and Managing Partner in my OB practice as well as numerous other leadership roles I have been called upon over the years”. 

I thought I would share this story of Faith with you.  I believe that there are many more Faiths out there who have been deeply impacted by LYS.  Can you believe that Faith contacted us in 2011, after having gone to LYS in 1982?  What a moving and powerful story about the impact of LYS on one young leader’s life.