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Third Annual Youth Leadership Retreat a Success

Diane Park - Thursday, July 16, 2015

Taking Flight, in partnership with On Our Own Maryland's Transitional Age Youth Outreach (TAY) Project, hosted the 3rd Annual Young Adult Leadership Retreat. The Retreat was held June 17-19 at North Bay Adventures in North East, MD. This year was our largest Retreat yet, with 42 participants. This year MCF also had four new staff members to help make sure everything ran smoothly: Taking Flight’s Christi Halpin, Taking Flight-Baltimore’s Ashley Ross and Alexis Blake, and LIFT’s Mila Choei. Not only is our event expanding, but our youth programs are too!

The peer-led event offered workshops with young adult focused topics, training on storytelling and strategic sharing, an art therapy corner, social time, and an open forum for participants to share their own stories with their new group of friends and supports. The Workshops included Understanding Finances and Laughing Yoga, facilitated by MCF Family Navigator Augustine Cook. Peer-led Workshops included a session about Disabilities & Comedy and Becoming an LGTBQ Ally, facilitated by Taking Flight’s Jordan Geddes along with Mid-Shore Mental Health’s Rowan Powell.

North Bay also facilitated Adventure Actives: Tree-top Ropes Course, Giant Group Swing, Ziplining, Kayaking and Rock Climbing. These adventures helped to build friendship, leadership and team building. Watching the participants cheer each other on, or offer a hug and encouragement when nerves took over, is a great reflection of our goals when planning this Retreat. We hope to give young adults more confidence, more hope and a wider network of support. As it turns out, you can learn a lot about what you’re capable of when you are harnessed to a wire while balancing on a log hundreds of feet in the air!

This year we asked those who had previously attended to step into Leadership Roles including Peer Support Leaders, Cabin/Bunk Leaders and Workshop & Reflection Leaders. It was amazing to see the veteran participants step up into these roles with ease and also make the first-timers feel welcome, safe and supported.

This year’s event is best summed up by the evaluations the participants filled out. When asked what they learned at the Retreat, we received responses like: “Opening up and being myself is important.” “How important I can be in other people’s lives.” “I have way more support than I thought.” “So many people experience what I have been through.” And “It’s OK to not be OK.”

This is a special event. It’s an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to have fun. But it provides such a unique and intensive type of peer support that we haven’t seen done before. The openness and compassion of the participants on our last day is inspiring; detailing their personal journeys and making it safe for others to share. It’s powerful, private and transformative. Participants leave knowing they are not alone; encouraged to start putting goals into motion, and ready to use their voice to make things better for themselves and others.

For photos from the 2015 Retreat check out the Taking Flight website or Facebook page and keep checking back for information about the 2016 Young Adult Leadership Retreat!

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