It was a privilege to be invite by my mentor Nane Alejandrez to attend the National Credible Messenger Summit in Washington D.C. I represented Sustainable Holyoke Youth Leadership Initiative and Puerto Ricans in Western Massachusetts. Nane received an award for his great work with Barrios Unidos and the change he has brought to his community of Santa Cruz and across the country. It was the first time I've traveled to our nation's capital of Washington D.C. It was breathtaking. I never expected being at such an important and moving conference.
My Journey to Washington D.C.
After an all-day train ride, I walked around Washington's Union Station. It was a great moment of accomplishment and fulfillment. I felt like I am begging to make my own history. Located in downtown's Little China, elegant the Pod Hotel was great where diversity from all cultures flourished.
Once the Conference supporters and founders were settled, we were invited to Welcome Reception in the Hotel's very own bar and lounge. I met so many influential people who wanted to find out more and contribute to our program however they could. It was wonderful to spend time with Nane and his wife Jenny. We'd grown close this spring when I lived at their home during my internship with Barrios Unidos. Nane told me about all his projects with Barrios Unidos. I fondly remember helping him with his Food Drive. I missed doing that with him every Friday afternoon to help his community. That night Nane told me how important it was I was there with him and how much I could learn from these people.
Credible Messengers Site Visits
The next day was the official beginning of the Conference. After breakfast, we got on the shuttle bus for a tour of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services Facilities. We saw offices and learned about their programs for youth and their families to move forward in their lives. We then toured New Beginnings, a youth development center where they help and empower youth sent there to serve their time and get help they needed.
Honestly it was difficult knowing it's actually a prison. It was helpful to know how they treat the youth and the environment they strive to create. That afternoon I learned about the incarceration system and how it adversely affects the black and brown communities. We did a site visit of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) facilities and learned about the importance of both organizations for the youth and their community.
I learned about how DYRS and Credible Messengers work together as a team to make as much change as they can. They told us stories of youth who have become successful through the program - and even parents who were inspired to change for their family. The facilities workers were very proud of what they're doing and how they have helped positively impact the people in their communities in powerful ways. For the next 3 days, I was submerged into a space full of positivity and movement with inspiring people. Every second I was there I learned so much important information. It was truly an honor to be part of such beautiful and inspirational moments. These memories will propel me to move forward.
Washington D.C. Monuments
I will never forget seeing the monuments and memorials with Nane and Jennie. As we walked around them, Nane told me that I had a lot of important work ahead of me. Hearing that from him made me realize how much he believes in me and how I must work hard to conquer my goals. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial really uplifted me in so many ways and was truly a highlight of the trip. Another unforgettable moment was taking a picture in front of the U.S. Capital with everyone I had spent my time with at the Conference.
Someone at the Conference told me the key is to engage yourself in the community, learn the lessons with the people and learn from people to make the right changes. Reaching out to other communities is also important to compare and to contrast problems and solutions and then network positive outcomes with opportunities. I got to learn so much and I'm proud to have experienced and learned from Credible Messengers. Many people encouraged me and told me to keep following my best intentions. They emphasized how important it is to start being part of the movement at a young age. This experience will definitely push me towards achieving my goals to make things better for the people around me and for our future youth.
Taking everything into consideration, words can't express exactly what I experienced through my eyes. Since I returned to Holyoke, I can tell you the first week of October 2018 I had the most profoundly influential moments of my life. I know with the amount of building and connecting I did my life will flourish into success and prosperity. I will use this positive energy to continue my work in my City and community to inspire and encourage more youth to become leaders. I appreciate being part of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute and Sustainable Holyoke Youth Leadership Initiative and proud to represent for Holyoke youth. Thanks to them many doors and experiences opened-up for me at a young age. I'm will keep focused to make sure I achieve my goals.