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The smell of body odor begins to dissipate as fifteen youth warm-up on bicycles, treadmills, and elliptical machines. They pant and breathe as they push themselves to embrace the exercise regimen their job requires of them. They are Junior Trainers: youth who will, starting Monday, enter their respective communities to do outreach programs with younger-aged youth. They are expected to know basic components of nutrition and fitness, be able to lead stretches and abdominal exercises, and take leadership of their duties as role models. Yet, in my opinion, many do not realize that their job will require them to be independent, responsible, and capable. For example, during outreach programs, a few older trainers and I will travel with the Junior Trainers, but our roles are strictly of supervision. The Junior Trainers are the ones who are expected to take the initiative, and – in a sense – “run the show.”
There are some Junior Trainers who I know will thrive under the spotlight and enjoy the opportunity to impart knowledge to younger people. But, there are also others who I worry about – specifically the youth who are indifferent about their responsibilities and genuinely do not seem interested in their work. How will these youth respond when they are expected to step up and run individual programs? Will they embrace the challenge and become more engaged in their work? Or will they continue to express the same negative attitudes? These questions, among other things, have been circulating in my mind since I first met these youth last week.
Despite all the trouble that some youth generate, most of the Junior Trainers – if looked at individually and removed from the influence of a group – are bright young people who acknowledge that their lives are not restricted by the environment that they live in. Many, when listening to presentations or workshops, are focused and attentive. They genuinely seem interested in transforming their lives. Yet, in spite of this observation, I find myself constantly asking myself: where do these youth go from here? What happens to most of these teenagers after this summer? Will I have done anything to help them find a sense of direction in their lives?
On a somewhat unrelated note, the fireworks show on the Fourth of July at Gas Works Park was one of the more spectacular displays of pyrotechnics that I have ever seen. Minus the disappointment that I had of not hearing “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood over the speakers while watching the fireworks extravaganza, I was thoroughly impressed by the choice of fireworks and in awe of the beautiful view of Lake Union. During the event, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Northwest Harvest and helped them raise funds. I had an absolute blast (no pun intended) spending my Fourth with my fellow DukeEngagers. All eighteen of us seem to grow closer and closer every week.