What did you learn from your experience on the HY board?
In my six years on the Highlands Youth (HY) Advisory Board, I learned so much more than what I can put into words. I learned important leadership skills, like how to lead a meeting, send professional emails, behave in meetings, how to respectfully disagree and come to compromises, and so much more. Arguably the most important lessons I learned were about forming connections and lasting relationships. Our main goal on the HY board has always been focused on inclusivity and making sure everyone feels welcome in Issaquah Highlands. My lasting takeaway from my board experience is the power of simply introducing yourself. At my very first HY event, I remember anxiously working up the courage to talk to some of the attendees. I was terrified of being ignored or being made fun of for putting myself out there. I quickly learned that everyone else was just as afraid, and the small act of introducing yourself could make all the difference. Throughout the years, I have gained more and more confidence. Now, meeting new people has become one of my favorite parts of being on the HY board.
What did you enjoy about your experience on the HY board?
I really enjoyed meeting countless new people. Not only the other teenagers who were on the board but also those who attended the events. I made several lasting friendships with peers who decided to attend some of our events. I also had several opportunities to meet and work with prominent adult figures in the community, which I would not have had the chance to do had I not been on the board. There seemed to always be something new to do or someone new to meet on the HY board, which kept all of us excited and engaged.
What surprised you about your experience on the HY board?
I was really surprised by how encouraging and welcoming the other teenagers on the board and those who attended our events were. It is truly a different atmosphere when you step into one of our events or meetings. All judgment or preconceptions about people are left at the door, and we genuinely just enjoy each other’s company. There is always someone who wants to talk to you and ask you about your day at every single meeting or event. This quickly builds your confidence and allows you to feel comfortable in other leadership or group settings.
Knowing what you know now, if you were just joining the HY board, would you do anything differently?
I would tell my younger self to speak up more. Whether it was at meetings or events, or even just in response to emails, I had opinions and thoughts to share but being so young, I was afraid of overstepping my boundaries. Now, as a senior and HY board co-president, I would be so excited if one of the younger members on the board felt comfortable enough to regularly contribute and have open conversations. There is truly no judgment from the rest of the board, but it is difficult to understand that until you are there long enough to realize.
What do you think is your legacy contribution to the HY board?
I hope my legacy is HY members invest themselves more in and build pride in their community. The HY board was truly the stepping-stone for me to get involved in leadership and find my true passion in community service. I hope other students can see that joining the HY board is their opportunity to explore their interests and potentially find their passion.
What is your message to the remaining HY board members?
Capitalize on this opportunity! The HY board is such a unique and important experience to have. You have so many connections and opportunities to truly make your voice heard, so use them. If there is an idea you have for a project, no matter how big or small it may be, share it. I can guarantee you there is someone else on the board who wants to work with you to bring that idea to life. The only way to learn and grow your skills is to try new things. You cannot grow if you do not put yourself out there and take risks.
What are your hopes for the future of the HY board and its impact on your peers?
I hope this board can truly become a group that is comfortable with each other and is willing to take risks. In my time, I formed strong friendships and have seen others do so as well. We are all like-minded individuals, that is why we chose to join the board in the first place. I would love to see strong connections between everyone on the board. I think this would help to create a space where board members feel comfortable sharing ideas and projects they are passionate about so the board can reach other teenagers in this community.
How did your experience on the HY board build your self-confidence?
The HY board built my confidence by giving me countless opportunities to put my leadership skills into practice. Whether it was proposing a new event at a meeting or representing the board at a community-wide event, I was given real-life experience and allowed to practice the skills we learn about on the board. I noticed major improvements in my own leadership and teamwork skills after just the first year and have only continued to grow my skills since then. I now feel comfortable attending meetings of new groups or even leading meetings myself. I know that I have experience on my side and I am set up for success.
Did making new friends through the HY improve your high school experience?
My high school experience would not have been the same had it not been for the HY board. Besides having friendly faces of upperclassmen around the halls, the HY board specifically helped me get involved in our Associated Student Body (ASB). I was fortunate enough to serve on the HY board with Deon Lillo, who was ASB president when I was a freshman. I joined the ASB class my freshman year, unknowingly the only freshman to do so. I was incredibly nervous for my first day of summer training for the class when I walked in and saw Deon. It was reassuring to know that someone, especially the president of the group, knew me and my passion for what we were doing. There have been several instances where the only person in a new class I knew was someone from the HY board, and it made me feel significantly more comfortable.
What new skills did you learn while on the HY board?
One of the most important skills I learned was how to speak up in a meeting. In my earliest meetings on the board, I would quietly sit and listen to the older students share their thoughts and ideas. I was practically overflowing with ideas myself, but I was just too afraid to speak up. Throughout our meetings and mini-lessons, I slowly gained confidence in myself and my ideas. I learned the best times to jump into the conversation, and when I needed to interject myself to voice an idea. While this may seem like a simple skill, it is often overlooked in leadership training because of the idea of a “natural born leader.” I firmly believe the best leaders are not always the loudest people in the room, and this board does, too. We learned how to listen to others and how to get everyone involved in the conversation.
Do you feel you are better prepared for your next life chapter because of your HY board experience?
I am 100% more prepared for my next chapter in life after serving on the HY board. I am interested in going into student government in college and pursuing a career in law. I know my future consists of many meetings and leadership opportunities and the HY board did an incredible job preparing me. I feel confident walking into rooms knowing I may be the youngest person there because of the many times I have done so as a HY board representative. Perhaps most importantly, I feel confident putting myself out there and forming connections with those around me. I cannot express how grateful I am for my time on this board. I have grown significantly as a leader, friend, and overall person from the lessons I have learned.
Emily Palm is an Issaquah High School senior and Crofton Springs resident.
The HY board is now accepting applications for 2021-2022. Ideal candidates are motivated, outgoing, creative, and dedicated to making our community better. Candidates must live in Issaquah Highlands and attend middle or high school in the fall of 2021. The deadline for applications is May 1.
Top applicants will be invited to a personal interview for final consideration. Click here to apply online now>>
Submit Your Free Graduation Announcement!
Highlands Council seeks graduation announcements for publication in the July 2021 issue of Connections. At this time, we are seeking announcements for graduates from high school, college, and technical/trade schools.
To be featured, graduation announcements must be submitted by May 31, 2021. Be sure to select “Graduation” in the announcement form to provide all the relevant information for your announcement. Click here to submit your free announcement >>