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Author:   Michael Meeks, Civic Youth Participant

I learned by doing this summer. Unlike a classroom environment, where things are usually learned in a theoretical manner, I put skills to use in a very real and practical way with Civic Youth L.A.

But what I learned was arguably on equal standing with how the subject matter was taught. Over the course of six-sessions this summer, I learned how to lead a group of my peers and how to organize a clean-up from the ground up. Asserting myself had been a source of anxiety for me before the summer, but things like making calls, handing out posters, delegating roles and attending meetings became less stressful as the summer went on.

In short, I learned how to help my community in a more effective way than I ever could have on my own this summer.

CYLA is designed to maximize a young person’s input into the process of government. If that appeals to you (and as I talk to my peers and see their disillusionment, I figure it would), then CYLA is the program for you.

Those who do apply should also realize that like-minded people have done exactly as them and that means over the summer, you will get to know and work with some of the brightest and most engaged youth and young adults in Los Angeles, with many holding spots on their local neighborhood council, or otherwise involved in their communities. All things considered, the group I worked with this past summer was one of the most inspirational I’ve ever had the pleasure of being around. It is networks like this that are the envy of all trying to break into politics the world of government and politics.

Yet, the most immediate help is likely to come from the adults that organize the program. Coming from the Mayor’s Office and a bevy of Departments within the City, they offer access to people who can considerably speed up the process of organizing the projects and engaging with the City. I can speak from personal experience and say that without my group facilitator, I’d have spent a lot more time on the annoying logistics of finding contacts, and suffering the uncertainty of their ever acknowledging my request, than I would have otherwise.

All to say, CYLA gives you the tools to work bigger than yourself. In addition to the classes throughout the summer, I got to work on a final clean-up project, but it was different for people before us. It will be different for people after us too. Whatever it is you do, rest assured knowing that the outcome will be notable. You need not look farther than my experience and the above mentioned instances for that.

And of course, this goes without mentioning that each session involves a guest speaker from government or public work, activities meant to teach and develop leadership skills, and a meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti (if you’re lucky, you’ll even be able to shake his hand and take a picture like I did).

CYLA is tremendous program, from skills to relationship building, it provides you with a thorough introduction to the world of civic engagement. I advise you give it a shot.