The 2012 Student United Way Leadership Retreat is in the books! Forty attendees from 20 states took part in a powerful weekend of fun, learning and personal growth that will help their Student United Ways flourish on their campuses.
The retreat started at 8pm on Friday with a welcome message from Brian Gallagher, President & CEO of United Way Worldwide. Friday evening was devoted to basic overviews of United Way's 125 year history and the five year history of the Student United Way movement. Saturday morning kicked off with learning sessions devoted to how to start a Student United Way and effective club management. The conversations and feedback provided by students were incredible. From there, the conversation was geared toward United Way's education work (a specific focal point of the weekend) along with ways student leaders could align their efforts with the One Million Volunteer Readers, Tutors and Mentors call to action. We took the conversation from brainstorming to something more tangible by creating literacy kits comprised of a book and a collection of related objects, games and activities designed to make reading interactive and enjoyable for young children. Each student was given a classic Dr. Seuss book, an array of art supplies and an hour of time. While the artistic ability varied from kit to kit, the fun was pretty consistent across the board. The literacy kits created will be donated to local DC shelters that provide literacy and playtime activities for homeless children.
Afternoon sessions also included grant writing training from Mike Minks, Director of Outreach and Innovation with Youth Service America. YSA improves communities by increasing the number and diversity of young people ages 5-25 engaged in service. One of the primary ways they do this is through the grants they promotes and oversee. Not only did Mike share his best practices for writing grants, but he also walked us through an actual $1,000 request for proposals currently available through YSA and helped attendees create and critique ideas.
Saturday evening, attendees took an informal walking tour of Washington, DC which included stops at the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the World War II Memorial.
Sunday morning we reconvened for training on volunteer management, member retention, fundraising, planning and other skillsets necessary to run a Student United Way effectively. We even had a communications and message training session that included a mock TV interview for our attendees brave enough to take the stage.
With planes to catch and classes in the morning, everyone departed with a renewed passion to advance the common good in the areas of education, income and health. Later that evening I received a wonderful email that included the line, "I have never felt so eager to do good, ignite volunteers, or change the community I live in than I do after this weekend." The email came from an incredible young leader that started a Student United Way this summer and was eagerly looking forward to his first meeting ever the Tuesday after our retreat. While I haven't heard feedback from all forty attendees, I know many, myself included, share this exact sentiment.
Interested in seeing more retreat photos and video? You're in luck - attendees kept a pretty lively record of the weekend. Check the Student United Way Facebook page or search Twitter and Instagram for the hash tag #LIVEUNITED.