Youth leadership


Becoming a leader

” Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.”

Warren Bennis

As many of you know I run a nonprofit that is a youth leadership organization. During the summer we run three separate weeks of leadership camp, where middle school students stay on a college campus for a week away from their parents, learning, having fun and having time to reflect on who they are and where they want to go. This past week we just ended our first session of camp with almost two hundred students transformed by their experience.

Our students do all of the traditional camp activities like talent shows, biathlons, a dance, cheering …you know the drill. What makes us unique is that students also learn a curriculum about becoming a leader. They learn to have a plan, a goal, how to communicate those plans, they learn to be life long mentors to others and most importantly they learn that you can not lead unless you serve. It is truly students teaching students leading by example showing the best of themselves and who they can be.

So often in the nonprofit space, we are running a business like almost any other with budgets, timelines, goals and the list goes on. What makes our work (nonprofit work) different is that unlike a company when your numbers are down, fewer people profit. In the nonprofit world, when you don’t make numbers, someone doesn’t go to camp, get fed, receive medicine and the list goes on. The stakes are real and there is a person affected by each choice, for better or for worse.

The other challenge in the nonprofit space is that you can often feel separated or removed from those you serve.  We work all year (our staff of two and 150 amazing volunteers, who will serve over 3,000 students) to send one-third of our students to camp with scholarships. Then the moment happens, we see their faces, we watch them grow and learn all week and our efforts beyond worthwhile. Children who live in the inner-city, who have never been on a college campus let alone stay on one and then to hear them share their experiences….well there simply are not words with how incredible it feels.

Each volunteer gives of themselves to change the life of another. You can feel the love, the kindness, the joy, the gratitude between our campers and our volunteer staff. Regardless of what is happening in the world, I know that our amazing college and high school volunteers are transforming hundreds of children’s lives for the better….renewing my faith in humanity and inspiring me to strive to serve more.

charity matters



Copyright © 2019 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Happy Birthday Dalai lama!

“The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.”

Dalai lama

Dali Lama's bday

God works in mysterious ways. Months ago when we were planning our youth leadership camp at UC Irvine, we were told that we might have to share some space with a “secret VIP.” At the time we were none too pleased. What are you supposed to do when you discover that the VIP is the Dalai lama and he is celebrating his 80th birthday? Answer: Channel your inner zen, take a deep breath, pray for enlightenment, an invitation to the party and know that the camp will sort itself out.

How did the Dalai lama choose to spend his July 6th, 80th birthday? He decided to have a three-day summit and world birthday event called the “The Global Compassion Summit.” While I didn’t see party hats and favors, I did get an invitation to see his Holiness celebrate his 80th birthday (along with hundreds of others). Only the Dalai lama would use his celebration as a platform to discuss, the transformative power of creativity, youth leadership and compassion for the planet. How I loved the irony that our youth leadership camp was getting reorganized so that His Holiness could discuss youth leadership.

There was more wisdom shared during this amazing event than I have had time to process or share but I will say one of my favorite thing that His Holiness said was this, “We focus on cultivating a clever brain and not a good heart. It is only with cultivating wisdom and compassion together mixed with action that we create change.” 

The Dalai lama’s birthday event will continue to create change. His Summit or party was hosted by both UC Irvine’s Center for Living Peace and Friends of the Dalai Lama,  which is a non-profit organization founded to amplify the positive messages of His Holiness. The organization’s mission is to nurture kindness and compassion through action.

Never have I been so happy to be at the party, so full of joy, and inspired to share the message of compassion.

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2015 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.