May is an exceptionally proud month for UC Merced, campus-wide. Students conquer rigorous finals, graduates walk the stage to receive hard earned diplomas, and friends and classmates part ways for adventurous summer escapades, internships, or for exciting new careers. This May is an exceptionally gratifying month for the Yosemite Leadership Program as well. We are celebrating the most successful and impactful YLP year to date. Participants from this 2012-13’s first- and second-year cohorts exceeded all previous levels of cohort involvement, leadership activity engagement, volunteerism, and project accomplishment.
The first year cohort revelled in the joys of the year during an annual weekend retreat in Yosemite National Park. On the first day, the cohort collaborated with two experienced employees of Yosemite's trail crew to construct a safe, sustainable path, where years of foot traffic by inspired climbers had formed a social trail to one of Yosemite Valley's many climbing locations, causing erosion. The YLP participants put sweat, muscle, and a lot of love into creating stone steps up the well used path, clearing debris, and crushing granite to create a well defined route. Feeling tired and accomplished, the participants took some time to rest in El Cap Meadow, lying on their backs to spot a lone climber nearly two thousand feet above. With good food, time away from studies, and some prime wilderness real-estate, the retreat culminated an incredible year as the participants worked together, ate together, laughed together, and remembered all of the challenges, growing points, successes and fun experiences they had... together.
The Social Change Practicum (SCP) was developed as a platform for second year participants to fully engage their leadership strengths. Nine YLP students participating in the SCP accomplished 6 community-impacting capstone projects and 4 more participants will complete 2 additional projects by the beginning of the coming fall semester. This accomplishment exceeds the number of completed projects by all previous YLP years combined!!! Through these capstone projects, YLP participants have provided hundreds of volunteer hours, collaborated with 10 different community and campus organizations outside of YLP, and impacted over 135 youth from the local and neighboring communities. Community educators, youth program coordinators, and other professionals from the various project partner organizations shared how impressed they are with the amount of commitment, professionalism, and successful impact each of these social change participants showed through their capstone projects. Facilitators of YLP believe that these participants are today’s social and environmental change agents, and tomorrow's world leaders.
At the annual Yosemite Leadership Program Year End Celebration, we crowned, with flaming sequoia-cone bandanas, the newest YLP Masters, those who have completed each successive element of the two-year leadership experience: Alex Lin, Vera Reyes-Espinoza, Katharine Cook, Maria Martinez, Theodore Marquez, Jessica Rivas, Eric Douglas, Jasmine Marquez, Rebecca Brewster, Ian Ojeda-Vasquez, Alejandra Guzman, Daniel Martinez, and Christopher Cuny. They received an extended hand of congratulations along with a well-deserved certificate of completion. We are impressed by the maturation of these YLP completers and we honor them. Here’s to their success!!!
And Finally, YLP applauds Aricia Martinez, Bee Xiong, and Christopher Cuny, three YLP Masters who are now graduating from UC Merced and rightfully receive the green graduation stole bearing the letters YLP and the sequoia cone insignia to wear at their commencement ceremonies. Go change the world!
As we celebrate these graduations and program completions, in no way are we saying ultimate good-byes. YLP has become a family for all of us and we celebrate knowing that YLP values, friendships, and experiences travel with us wherever we go; this is an important part of the YLP legacy.
Stay tuned for news about the 16 student interns in Yosemite National Park this summer.
Yosemite Leadership Coordinator