Wayland youth learn leadership and empowerment skills

WaylandCares hosted a Summer Community Leadership Week for a group of 20 students entering grades 7-12 the last week of June. The students participated in an amazing fun filled week.The focus was on leadership, communication, collaboration and empowering our youth. The program was led by Elsie Cerrone, WMS Youth Advisor, Dr. Dossie Kahn, Assistant Director, Wayland Youth & Family Services and Jason Verhoosky, Director, WaylandCares.

The overall mission of the class was to provide leadership skills and opportunities for the youth of Wayland to work with a group of peers on a mix of games, presentations, activities, brainstorming and community service. The program provided youth the tools to create healthy messaging for the community, learn new leadership skills and help create a campaign message to encourage healthy decisions in Wayland and beyond. It was a group diverse in age, experience and ability but all were incredibly dedicated and open minded youth, that worked hard to help make Wayland a stronger community.  

Jason used games such as Jeopardy to create a comfortable and fun environment to educate and offer important data in a fun and competitive way. Statistics from the Metrowest Youth Adolescent Health Survey, conducted every 2 years in the Metrowest communities were used. This is a survey sponsored by the Metrowest Health Foundation and the main resource of information for WaylandCares. He also incorporated questions about Wayland, Substance Prevention and Staff. “I’m a firm believer if you can make education fun, the take away and learning goes way up” commented Jason.

“Throughout the course of the week it was incredibly powerful to see the kids grow and become more confident in their personal views, to be able to express what they care about and to see their true passion for their community come out. And more importantly for the youth to see the value and need for themselves and for their peers to make healthy decisions, was nothing short of amazing” said WaylandCares Director, Jason Verhoosky.

The youth described Wayland as a great community and love living here but knew there were plenty of challenges as well as benefits. While they realized there are a lot of resources available to them, their concerns were similar to other communities around peer pressure and fitting in and following the unspoken rules of the school community. Their focus changed once they reviewed the data from the Metrowest Health Adolescent Health Survey and were eager to work together to help their peers make healthier decisions and to lower usage rates.

The day began and ended with a self rating system using a scale of 1-10. As the week went on the ratings increased reflecting on the confidence building and connection with one another. When a score of 11 was stated the student commented she saw a unicorn go by. The youth seemed to really love and enjoy the opportunity to work together in this way. “It was an inspiring and remarkable the kindness, energy and connection the students brought together,” said Dr. Kahn.

A special thank you to several local food establishment who donated food for the youth: Wayland Pizza House, Panera, Stop & Shop, Wayland Variety and Deli, Bertucci’s, The Villa and Middlesex Bank. The kids loved the food and greatly appreciated the support of the local businesses.

WaylandCares supports a Middle School youth leadership program and the SADD organization at the High School. WaylandCares is a community coalition encouraging families to making healthy decisions in Wayland. We believe it is the collective responsibility of the community to create a safe environment for our young people, and to support healthy youth decision-making.