Guest blog post written by LIFT volunteer Melissa Johnson
When Corrie (the Suttons Bay Middle School Program Coordinator) asked me to say a few words, I was unsure about how to talk about LIFT. Partially because I prefer staying behind the scenes. But when a program leaves such a deep impression, I feel compelled to swallow my anxiety and stand on the rooftop.
I've only been with LIFT for a short time — since last fall. I had been stalking them since they began because I was intrigued by the grassroots way they started and was curious about how they would engage this consistent age group.
I've been working in after-school programs and nonprofits most of my adult life—mainly with middle and high school students. If you've ever worked with young adults, you know how tricky it can be. They have an attuned BS barometer. They have a spidey sense if you're genuine. They are keenly aware if you truly care. They know if you're working with them to stroke your own ego or if you honestly want to support and get to know them.
I have never seen an organization build community so well, so consistently, with so much enthusiasm and positive energy.
LIFT builds a classroom community with young adults and empowers them to find ways to connect with the larger community. They build community by showing empathy to each and every student, modeling conflict resolution, and giving youth a voice and choice on everything from programming and classroom jobs to snacks. And they have the best snacks.
They build community by helping young adults see there are consequences to their actions — both positive and negative. LIFT shows them how they make a difference in the world — however small. Cleaning up at a beach, sending valentines to the adult care facility, to the Sugar Cube activity on the classroom wall. And when they make mistakes — LIFT gently helps them figure out for themselves what they could have done differently and gives them the space and grace to "try again." They don't walk away from conflict or difficult conversations.
If you believe in a nonprofit and their work, support them — with your dollars, resources, and volunteering. It's the only way they survive and thrive. I'm excited to see LIFT grow (it shows the immense need in our community. I'm so happy to have them here and feel honored to be around such good humans. If you are looking for a place to volunteer your time and spend time empowering the youth of tomorrow, visit our volunteer page to learn more.