My weekend at Riley’s Way Youth Leadership retreat was truly life-changing. Going into it, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was greater than I could have imagined. I learned so much about my self and the world through my peers in such a short period of time. The three student-led workshops I attended were One love, Girl RPRSNTD, and Changemaker. One Love, presented by Annette, Claudia & Kathryn, spoke about domestic violence and unhealthy relationships. It was led by three girls who are on their city’s teen board of the organization One Love which seeks to educate teens about healthy relationships. This was particularly interesting to me because I am involved in a similar organization back home, The Spring. Girl RPRSNTD, facilitated by Nicole, was about an initiative started by one of the girls at the retreat to have a sort of nationwide book club where girls would read books that they could actually find a character like themselves in. Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, so I enjoyed talking about my old favorite books, their deeper meanings and new books I must read with a group of like-minded peers. The final workshop I attended was Changemaker, led by Meagan, an ASHOKA change-makers. She talked about the path to making a change in the world and how it starts with a small spark that soon grows into a flame, fueled by your own burning passions. This workshop was very inspiring to me and gave me confidence that I can make a difference in my own community. Overall, this weekend was empowering, inspiring, and love-filled. I wouldn’t trade my experience here for the world. I know that I will hold the valued I learned here close to my heart always, inspired by Riley’s story to lead with kindness and empathy to help create a world that is truly for everyone.

– Kara Petit