It is definitely an understatement to say that our Cleveland Regional Training was a transformational experience! I left on Thursday morning from the Ronald Regan Airport in Washington, DC to make it in time for our kick off. By the time I made it to Cleveland and started to interact with my other YP4 Fellows, I knew it was all worth it.

After dinner, many of the Fellows came back to my room and we continued our conversations about our lives, our experiences dealing with oppression, hip hop culture, and “not letting others steal our joy” – Nia Scott. Though we were all uncomfortable due to the room’s limited space, it didn’t deter us from bonding with one another staying up well past 3am.

I woke up the next morning (Friday) extremely tired, but more excited to officially participate in a full day of workshops. I gained a deeper understanding of progressive values, intersectionality, policies, and systems of oppression. What I loved most was how the space was conducive for open discussion.  Our in-depth dialogue during the sessions gave me the opportunity to learn from my peers and connect with their visions of the world. They are probably some of the brightest people I’ve ever met!

On Saturday, we spent time working on our Blueprints for Social Justice. It was very inspiring to see the programs and initiatives that our Fellows were creating. Before the day ended, each of us selected a peer mentor to support us as we move forward with our Blueprints during the Fellowship year. One really special part about the training was the YP4 alumni presence. They spent time away from their busy schedules to serve as facilitators and more so an extended support system throughout the weekend. We were able to learn about their work and develop relationships with them that will hopefully transcend far beyond the few days that we spent in Cleveland.

The most difficult part about the conference was preparing to leave. On Sunday, each fellow shared heartfelt words with the larger group about another person present in the space. This was a very sentimental moment for many of us and it exemplified one of my greatest takeaways from the training: you never know the impact that you can have on someone’s life by simply being you! You never know the impact you can have on your community by simply being you! And you never know the impact you can have on the world by simply being you! Be bold about who you are.

Thank you YP4 for such a wonderful and transformational experience! I can’t wait to see you all again at the National Summit in January.

Check out the photos from Cleveland here.