“As a young high-school student, older students can seem intimidating. However, I remember that the student leaders on my team made a genuine effort to get to know me, and listened to me. I remember thinking how amazing it was that these cool seniors were choosing to spend their break with me and my friends. Similarly to the connections I made with my peers, I ended up getting to know the leaders on my team in a more genuine way than I had experienced before.

One leader in particular, Anna, made a lasting impression on me. She taught me how to be myself. And she did it through example and by listening. Anna and I bonded over our love for fantasy books, and would spend long bus rides just suggesting different books to each other. I don’t think Anna knows how impactful those conversations were for me. I was always a little bit embarrassed by the books I read, because it wasn’t considered “cool” by some of my classmates. But Anna was never embarrassed by the things she loved. Anna was a quiet person, but her passion was clear when she would talk about a really good book. Anna was also very insightful. She helped me navigate various challenges and untwine my own thoughts. Anna encouraged me to self-reflect and supported choices I made. I saw these qualities in Anna, and I looked up to her because of them.

Anna also encouraged me to be my most authentic self by listening. No matter what I wanted to talk about – fantasy books, music, or problems at school – she would listen. She made me feel like my thoughts and hobbies were interesting and worthwhile, which in turn, made me feel like I was interesting and worthwhile. Anna was so encouraging and consistent, and she helped me become more genuine, instead of hiding from fear of social pressure.”

– Myla Ferland, Trekkers Class of 2019 & Trekkers AmeriCorps Volunteer, 2021-2023