My Path to Leadership
GYLI exposed me to new cultures and concepts. As a teenager, I was just figuring out the racial dynamics of Milwaukee and the seemingly antipodal waters between my home and school life. GYLI expanded my universe and gave me a multidimensional introduction to cultural complexities. Traveling around the world and learning from thought-provoking teachers provided exposure to experiences, languages, and concepts I was unfamiliar with. In particular, I gained an appreciation for Spanish while preparing for the Costa Rica trip. I continued to learn Spanish in college and eventually used this knowledge to leverage my first job out of law school. I also valued the diversity of opinion I encountered during the GYLI program. I consciously sought to recreate those connections and to immerse myself in learning about those different from me in both college and law school.
I gained a sense of what real leadership was from GYLI. From the program, I learned how to understand group dynamics and leverage all personalities and talents for an optimal outcome. Seeing the GYLI program leaders “walk the talk” was a model that I admired and respected. Because of the example they set, I knew what it meant to stand up for one’s beliefs, no matter the consequence. I was drawn to advocacy, to become a voice for those that were silenced, for the same reason. I also learned how to be a leader among leaders, and how to set myself apart from my peers and coworkers. I’ve surpassed countless expectations simply because I had the courage to speak up and out; I believe GYLI was the breeding ground for my audacity.
The GYLI experience also enhanced my perspective on life. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received was when a professor claimed, “Stephanie just gets it!” I’d like to think that GYLI contributed. When we first began the program, GYLI was simply YLI (Youth Leadership Institute) and we were the guinea pigs. It’d be an understatement to claim that there were a *few* snafus, but we learned to roll with the punches and we loved every second of it. At that time, YLI was truly ran by YOUNG leaders. We bonded, vowed to keep in touch for life, and made sure to keep up the GYLI spirit during the school year. The experience of improvising and making decisions about the program really stuck with me as a young person. I have been able to keep a positive disposition while dealing with life’s adversities and this perspective lead me to pursue a life coaching career.
In short, GYLI laid the foundation for the person I am today and influenced many of my academic and career choices. I am so happy to be back in the program as a 20-30 Leadership Council member. I know GYLI will continue to change young people’s lives and mold them into future leaders.
— Steph Ghoston (2003-2005 GYLI participant)