This summer, the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs (MCA) hosted the LEAD (Lead, Empowerment, And Development) Rural Utah event! This free and virtual program was held for students attending school in rural Utah, an essential region and population that has always teemed with potential and this program focused on supporting students in addressing unique challenges rural communities face. Every year, MCA’s Multicultural Youth Leadership Program hopes to inspire multicultural youth to be leaders within their own spaces. The whole program centers around youth leadership, which is the ability of young people to envision a goal or needed change, to take initiative or action to engage with their community, and learn the value of collaboration and connections.
This year’s event was centered around the theme “Your Journey is Yours!” A powerful message that aims to support learning while instilling tools to assist youth in understanding their strengths and future. Dustin Jansen, the director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, kicked off the event with an inspiring land acknowledgement. A special message from Governor Spencer Cox, who himself grew up in rural Utah, was given before an immersively creative performance from Trash Panda Dance Group. Finally, MCA’s Program Specialist, Rozanna Benally-Sagg, closed the opening session and transitioned into the thick of the event by introducing the three breakout sessions that the students would be participating in:
- Pathways to Thriving
- Empower You
- Passion to Purpose
Pathways to Thriving was facilitated by MCA Planning Policy & Engagement Coordinator, Claudia Loayza, who emphasized the importance of passion statements, placemaking, and cause— important factors that can inspire one to become more involved in their local community. Esteemed panelists Chris Haramato with East Canyon State Park, Liz Gabbitas with the Utah State Library Division, and Nubia Peña with MCA shared their stories and hopes to illustrate how passion only adds to skills as leaders, and how that can impact a community.
The second session, Empower You, was presented by MCA Graphic Lead & Program Specialist, Maegan Castleton, who facilitated a lesson on self-reflection, expression, and embracing identity. Through an ‘Identity Chart’ exercise, Maegan encouraged students to reflect on their own emotions and perceptions while also motivating them to be mindful and inclusive of others in the process. This exercise was followed by a quick break where pre-survey and Kahoot! game prize winners were announced! Congrats to the awardees!
Passion to Purpose was the final session, where MCA Training & Research Coordinator, Miguel Trujillo, and Utah State University undergraduate student, Daniella Rivera led students through a “What Does Success Look Like to You?” activity. Students brainstormed goals, motivations, values, and priorities for the future through the construction of success maps. Esteemed community members and young leaders, Marina Peng with the Department of Cultural and Community Engagement and Victoria Meza with the Urban Indian Center of Salt Lake and Art Access Utah, shared their own examples. This session closed with a youth share-out, where students [courageously/bravely] shared what they created and discussed other ways they could start creating impact in their own community.
Rozanna closed the event, again emphasizing the importance of youth leadership and the confidence that MCA has in this next generation’s strengths, interests, identities, and future. She said, “in those moments of fear and doubt, always remember you are bold, brilliant, and courageous!” As Maegan affirmed in her session, “you are all leaders, you are all visionaries, and you can be successful. You matter.”
We thank our panelists, facilitators, and most importantly the students for making this LEAD event such a success!