With the summer coming to a close and Labor Day weekend rapidly approaching, last week marked the end of Keep Growing Detroit’s summer youth apprentice program. We spent the day on Friday wrapping up the program, saying our goodbyes, and celebrating all of the hard work that the high school students have put in over the last 2 months. As we were enjoying our last bit of time all together on Friday, I felt a sense of disbelief. How did the summer go by this quickly? Were the apprentices really here since June? Where did the time go?
I am proud of the work that I did with the apprentices this summer. I felt like I was an asset to the program in the field, in the classroom, at the farmer’s market, and on field trips — and I built meaningful connections to many of the apprentices in the process.
That said, there are certainly things I wish I had known at the beginning of this experience that I know now, including:
(1) You can never be too prepared. Whether it’s showing up to work an extra 15 minutes early even if you don’t think you need to, printing lesson materials days in advance, or looking up driving directions before getting into the car when you’re on a time crunch, there is no such thing as being too prepared for a day on the job when you’re working with teenagers. There were certain days this summer where my level of preparedness for a given task/activity simply wasn’t good enough, even though I thought it was ahead of time. If I could do it all over again, I’d make sure I am prepared for each and every day of work to the best of my ability in order to be a more reliable and responsible youth program staff.
(2) Value every moment, even down-time. At the beginning of the summer, I felt frustrated by down-time and the moments where nothing was scheduled for the youth apprentices (like lunch time, transitions between activities, car rides etc.). It is clear to me now that those moments matter as much as, if not more than, some of the programmed moments; down-time is often where relationships are formed and solidified. I learned this toward the end of the summer, and that’s when I noticed my relationships with the apprentices deepening and and strengthening. If I could go back in time, I’d value these moments from the beginning, and strive to make the most out of the limited time we have together.
If I were to give advice to future non-profit workers or youth coordinators, I would say: Go with the flow, stay humble, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Adults are just big kids, and sometimes the greatest advice and companionship can come from the most surprising places.
I’m so excited to spend one last week with Keep Growing Detroit, working on the farm and wrapping up data entry/paperwork for the youth program. It’s been a wonderful summer and I’m not ready for it to end!