Congratulations to the incoming student and mentor participants for our 2015-2016 Service Year! You were part of the largest General Orientation yet — with over 580 individuals in attendance! We had 12 Team Leaders, 9 Assistant Team Leaders, 41 Alum Leaders, 49 mentors, 250 students and 220 parents.

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The University of Utah generously donated space in both Orson Spencer Hall and the new Spencer Fox Eccles Business Building to hold our parent, alum/mentor, team meetings and general session. Our schedule was packed. Many at first wondered, “Is this REALLY going to take 4.5 hours?” but left thinking, “Is it already over? That went by fast!” We promise that every piece of information we go over at General Orientation is absolutely critical and — most of the time — very exciting! It’s our opportunity to tell you what we expect from you during the Service Year, both locally and internationally. You are about to embark on a life-changing journey, and we are here to support you and prepare you with our utmost ability.  Not to mention, think about all the great people you were able to meet! You can rest assured that everyone who attended is a kind-hearted, motivated individual (like yourself), or else they wouldn’t be attempting this challenge. General Orientation always has a very stimulating atmosphere.

This year, we began with three simultaneous sessions. One for incoming parents, where they heard from a panel of alum parents who spoke about Youthlinc and how it changed their families’ lives. Parents always say this is very effective in calming any anxiety they may have about committing their children to a demanding (yet extremely rewarding) Service Year. During another session, Assistant Team Leaders spoke to their respective teams about how to choose a worthy main service site and log hours in our Local Service Directory. In our third concurrent session, Bekah Meads led Team Leaders, Alum Leaders and Mentors in a discussion about the leadership relationship over the five committees that plan our international service. We are a student leadership program, so it is important for our Alum Leaders and Mentors to learn how to become a constructive resource and delegator.

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Our group was so large that we held two separate general sessions. We couldn’t fit everyone into the OSH auditorium at once! During general session, you were able to meet and hear from wonderful Youthlinc staff: Judy Zone, our Executive Director, Bekah Meads, our International Service Director, Jerika Mays, our Local Service Director, Justin Powell, our Real Life director, and Carolyn Taylor, our Office Manager. We reviewed important information such as our mission: creating lifetime humanitarians, fundraising ideas and refund policy, an overview of our international sites and partners, the deep bonds you will make while performing local service, how to set up your social fundraising pages, and our exciting refugee mentoring program: Real Life.

Finally, students and parents on each teams met with their Team Leaders to view a presentation about the international site and discuss what their trip will look like. We went over logistics, such as the itinerary and flight information. But we also delved deeper into the culture of each site, learning more about the wonderful people who live in these far-off places and how we were going to build collaborative, equitable partnerships with them.

Youthlinc couldn’t be more excited to kick off our 17th Service Year. We are so lucky to have over 370 wonderful individuals participating! Embrace the life-altering experiences yet to come.

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