As the sun rose above the trees, casting its warm glow over the clearing at Cooper’s Landing, staff, students and volunteers gathered together. They lined up in one large circle, continuing to spread out so that everyone knew they were equally welcome, accepted and seen.
There was a crispness in the air, but it was shaping up to be the perfect day to spend on the Missouri River for Job Point’s YouthBuild, Missouri River Relief, St. Joseph Youth Alliance and SLATE.
This year, they were joined by two special guests: Representative Kathy Steinhoff from Missouri’s 45th District and Chris Kennedy from the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Following a round of cheerful welcome speeches, Mr. Kennedy stepped forward and surprised the group by asking them to TAKE OUT their phones.
“I want you to take notes,” he said before launching into a powerful speech detailing his unique journey and the important lessons that he learned along the way.
Chris Kennedy’s Five Basic Steps to Achieve a Fulfilling Career
1. Find Your Calling
2. Know What You Don’t Like
3. Be on the Lookout for Good Opportunities
4. Stay Committed
5. Don’t Procrastinate (A WARNING!)
It was the perfect sendoff for the crowd as they divided into blended groups.
One group split up and departed on boats to clean up the riverbanks.
The second group was divided again and half learned about fishing and then went fishing and the other half experimented with watercolor – before switching.
After years of co-hosting this event with Missouri River Relief, we have created a framework that flows smoothly – but this is anything but a routine field trip for our students.
For many of the young people that day, it was their first time physically being on a boat on the Missouri River. It was the first time they’d felt snug in a life jacket as they bobbed up and down attempting to board a boat. It’s a truly humbling experience – boarding a boat – there is no way to look cool as you gain your footing – especially when you’re not used to the movement.
It was the first time they had sat down, put their phones away and stared with carefully observant eyes at the splendor of nature all around them.
There is magic in experiences like these. So many lessons to be learned and moments that change the way you view yourself and the world around you.
That is our mission in YouthBuild.
Exposing our students to experiences that challenge the narratives they’ve been told and the stories they’ve written about who they are forces them to grow in ways they never expected and tap into the skills and interests they didn’t know they had.
We are grateful for this opportunity to spend time together with young people from across the state. From St. Louis to St. Joseph and Columbia in-between we learned that we are all connected and impacted by the health of the Missouri River and that we can all lend a hand in stewarding this valuable resource.