This post is cross-posted from Coral J Bear's blog find the original here
Written by: Nicole White
Recently I went to a summer program for young activists. This program was put on by the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition (KSEC) and was to focus on environmental politics and activism. While there, I met some amazing people, learned a lot of necessary things for my career as an activist, and grew so much as a person. This is the story of how that program, Catalyst, changed my life.
As most of you may know, I have the pleasure (haha) of living my life with anxiety and depression. So even going to this place, without knowing anyone before hand, was a HUGE step in the right direction for me. What happened while I was there was even better and I could not have expected any of it. At first I was my usual scared self who just kind of stayed to myself. It was extremely hard for me to open up to this group of complete strangers. I mean, I guess all friends were at some point strangers but like this was different. I was surrounded by people I knew nothing about for an entire week. I was scared I was going to annoy them and scare them away and have an awful week stuck in the middle of nowhere with no one to talk to. Then something changed. We did an activity called the Identity Walk where we wrote down all of our identities, such as sexuality, gender, etc. This activity was so nerve wracking for me because I’m not much of one to like putting labels on myself, but it was honestly so empowering to be able to write down who you are without someone else trying to fit you into some version of a box that just doesn’t suit you. After this I realized we were obviously all different people and I shouldn’t be scared to be me because none of them would judge me.
This was an ENTIRELY new experience for me. I was in a safer place for an entire week. I felt like I was a part of a family that I got to choose. I wasn’t left out for being something different. I wasn’t looked down upon for having feelings and expressing them. I was just allowed to be me in a space where everyone was wholeheartedly loving of every difference. I made some really amazing connections with a lot of the people there and I will forever be grateful for being able to meet them and having them in my life now. These people mean the world to me and I wish I never had to leave them but because of the lessons I learned there I know for a fact that we’re all going to do amazing things.
I learned SOOOO much while I was there. This wasn’t your average class-like lessons either. These trainings taught me not only how to be a better activist, but also how to be a better me. They taught us everything from how to organize a campaign to proper self care. I met people who are making change in the real world NOW. I met young people who know that their voices need to be heard and won’t allow anyone to silence them. It was so empowering as a college student to learn that I have power too. I’ve always been very vocal about the problems in our society and I’ve always tried to create change, but until Catalyst I didn’t know how to or that it was actually even a possibility. After Catalyst, I’ve already started recruiting people for an organization I want to start in NKY and I’m so ready to get back to Louisville in less than a month and really raise some hell for the politicians who won’t listen to us.
While at Catalyst, I felt loved, like I had never been loved before. I made friends with people that otherwise, I would’ve never met. My life would be so much worse off if I had never met them. Catalyst is one big family that I know will always have my back. I love each and every person that I met there with my entire heart and I know they’re going to do amazing things. I learned so much from all of them. They taught me how to feel confident in who I am. They taught me how to love myself despite all of the flaws. They taught me that I deserve so much more than a toxic relationship that’s always bringing me down. They taught me how to be a better activist, friend, and person in general. I will never forget this experience because it lead me to the person I know I can be and it gave me a family that I can truly be myself around. Thank you so much KSEC and the Catalyst trainers for everything you’ve done for me!
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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