Happy birthday, #emergingleader Jermaine!

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(Jermaine will be very pleased to see that I’m not reposting the same old photo I kept using of him from last year’s YAB retreat.)

Jermaine and I first met in September 2012, when New Yorkers For Children engaged me to work with their Youth Advisory Board. This past September he and I began working more closely through Emerging Leaders and together we determined that he would work on three areas for the 2013-2014 school year. Specifically, Jermaine would make an effort to:

  1. participate more actively in discussions;
  2. figure out a way of weaving his diverse interests into a plan for purposeful work; and
  3. reach out for help as needed.

Believe it or not, he hit it out of the park with all three by the end of February. This year he has been a strong and consistent voice in Emerging Leaders (you can read about that here), and he also brings that same presence to his work at YAB.

Jermaine has also put a lot of effort into bringing together his great respect for the creativity of young people (including his own interest in music) with his commitment to finding meaningful work and gainful employment not only for himself but for others. He has honed his vision for a program that will help launch young people into creative careers. He also took full advantage of the connection I facilitated to a youth development organization called Building Beats. The folks who run it couldn’t be more thrilled with the operations work he is now doing for them.

Let’s talk about goal number three, though, because learning to ask for help is no small feat. While I firmly believe that young people should take the lead in setting their life priorities and goals, I “insisted” (Jermaine and ladamski will laugh at the euphemism) on this one because reaching out for support is a critical life skill that all of us need to learn. Speaking from personal experience, this is especially true for those of us who grew up accustomed to figuring things out and doing everything on our own. As I explained to Jermaine, no one would get anywhere or accomplish anything without other people’s help. Social entrepreneurs in particular need to master the art of asking for support if they are to get any project off the ground.

I won’t share the personal details of how Jermaine stared this task in the face, but I will say that he walked away triumphant (in his signature understated way). Those of us privy to the story were not as stoic because what he accomplished was so jaw-droppingly amazing. Jermaine is kind of a shark in this regard: He’d been sitting out the mini challenges, but when it really mattered, he whipped out some master-level self-advocacy skills. Those at the very highest levels sat up and took notice. He asked and he received.

In addition to slaying those three great beasts, Jermaine also earned extra credit this year for his work on self care. He made headway on his search for affordable healthy lunches by trying his first falafel (he gave it a thumbs up!) and he began exploring meditation and yoga. He was disappointed on his first try with meditation (“I only did it for three minutes.”), but Steph and I agreed that three minutes was mighty impressive for a first sitting.

Jermaine, I worried so much back in September that I wouldn’t know how to properly be of service to you. And it kept me up at night because I could sense that underneath your very calm exterior lay this gorgeous, ferocious tiger waiting to be unleashed. The big question was how. Well, silly me. You took care of all of that with only some gentle (okay, and a couple of not so gentle) nudges from me. I am so proud of you. You are on your path now. And you are running. Hope today you are feeling so very, very special. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life.

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