This past summer, I was one of the few lucky individuals who participated in this year’s Youth Leadership Institute at USC. The Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) is a four-day, overnight, college empowerment conference for Latino rising seniors. Hosted by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, it aims at empowering Latino students, many of which who are also first generation. This conference equips students with the knowledge and resources to successfully complete a higher education. With this said, about 150 young Latinos arrived at the YLI, and about 150 leaders left from it.
The Youth Leadership Institute gave many of these young Latino leaders the practical tools they need to successfully apply to top universities. After many workshops, students surely could guide one another through the college application/admission process. Attendees who participated in these college and career workshops at USC took away four important pieces of advice that can benefit any high school student:
1. Put on your own oxygen mask first
What does this really mean? In simple terms, if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask and take care of yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of others. Sometimes it’s difficult to resist our natural tendency to help others first because we are loving, responsible, and kind people by nature. However, the oxygen mask metaphor teaches us students that we need to take care of ourselves first before we can help our friends and especially our family. Besides, taking care of yourself is not selfish because you’re simply considering your needs as a priority.
2. Try pistachio ice cream
Many times, people will not try pistachio ice cream, simply because it looks weird. Likewise, some students will opt-out of joining a class, simply because it seems too “hard.” Although you may not like the ice cream, in the end, it is always good to try different things and get out of your comfort zone. Many times, one’s college experience revolves around personal exploration. Being able to thrive outside of your comfort zone is crucial to not only your college years but your career beyond college.
3. Network, network, network, and…… Network!
The reality of the world is that “who you know” does matter. That is why networking is an important skill regardless of the profession. However, obtaining an opportunity through networking is only half the battle, especially since an opportunity only continues to exist if you prove yourself to be worthy. At the Youth Leadership Institute, students were given business cards and taught how to properly introduce themselves through an elevator speech. All students nowadays should be able to present themselves in a professional matter in order to network with professionals.
4. There’s really nothing stopping you from reaching your dream school if you dedicate your efforts to it!
Throughout the program, students were encouraged to pursue their dreams, regardless of any setback they may be facing. Students were taught that through financial aid options, college may be easier to access than previously taught. Students learned to avoid being sticker-shocked and being deterred from their dream college simply because of the price. There is always help out there and no one should be afraid to ask for help. Lastly, students became aware that they should shoot for the moon, because even if they miss, “you’ll land among the stars.” In the spirit of these young leaders, students should remind themselves que,