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YWCA Youth Leaders – Retreat for Learning and Fun!

By By: Therese Genis - Strong Fast Fit Coordinator, Giovanni Molina - Strong Fast Fit Student Worker and Chris Ganzlin - Vice President Girls and Youth
April 13, 2016
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What happens when 14 high school students and their counselors head to camp for a weekend? The answer: learning, fun, late nights by the fire and new leadership skills.

A few weeks ago, we went on a retreat with two of our YWCA youth program leadership groups, the Wellness Warriors and Youth Mash Up.

The Wellness Warriors’ mission is to create youth leadership opportunities using a community project centered around healthy eating or physical activity. The group is composed of alumni from our Strong Fast Fit program. They previously learned about nutrition and physical activity on a personal level. Now they are taking it to the next level by bringing their knowledge and ideas into their communities.

Youth Mash Up is an assembly of YWCA youth from across our girls and youth programs. Their mission is to support youth leadership, advocacy and change.

The retreat was held at Camp Ihduhapi, a YMCA facility in Loretto, MN that offers the camping experience of cabins, bonfires, nature and trees all around. The youth were able to enjoy many activities and experiences.

A couple of things students reported learning at the retreat were:

Leadership Skills

Leadership was cultivated throughout the weekend. Youth were encouraged to participate in all the activities. This meant trying new skills, taking healthy risks and getting excited to be change agents in their communities. In one activity, youth talked about their favorite quotes related to being a leader, which helped them reflect on their own styles of leadership.


Guest presenter, Pam McBride, trained youth in facilitation skills. They learned the importance of asking good questions and being able to rephrase things to work better for the audience. They studied what it takes to be a good facilitator, including being well prepared and appropriate appearance. They then practiced facilitating groups themselves.

Team Work

We did a number of team-building activities. One such activity was the “blind train”, which a few youth said was their favorite activity of the retreat. It took place in the woods where the whole team made a train by holding onto each other’s shoulders. Only the person in the front had his eyes open. Everyone else relied on the person in front of them, telling them what was coming up. We had to trust our team members and use good listening skills in order to not stumble or run into anything. We also participated in a team scavenger hunt. We learned that working together makes things go faster and smoother.


YWCA’s very own PH Copeland from the Racial Justice department trained our leaders in advocacy skills-building. There was a lively discussion about the issues youth see in their communities and what outcomes they want to see in the future. Some of the issues that came up were: inactivity, pollution, drug use, immigration, poverty and racism. Outcomes the youth want to see were: diversity, less poverty, equity, eliminating social class and eliminating racism. They learned what advocacy was and how they can all be advocates in their own right.


There was a great deal of fun throughout the retreat and all activities. We made s’mores, had a little dance party, played games and enjoyed lots of laughs.

As everyone can tell, it was a great time for all youth and staff involved. In fact, many of the youth expressed that they wished it had lasted longer. Maybe next time we can pack in even more skills and adventures!

Ready to Join?

If you are interested in becoming a youth leader at the YWCA, please contact Therese Genis, Strong Fast Fit Coordinator at 612-215-4373.