Where no one knows your name

Where no one knows your name

Sara Yang

Two students return from a weekend leadership conference with positive experiences

Imagine being in a place where no one knows your name, no one knows who you are and vice versa.  Intimidating for some, to say the least.

Perhaps not, when that place is comprised solely of enthusiastic, friendly people.

Sophomore Neil Fernandes found himself in such a place when he spent the weekend at the 2010 Northern California Youth Leadership Seminar on May 21 – 23.  With a limit of one sophomore per high school, Fernandes was selected by MVHS administration to be one of approximately 115 Northern California students attending the conference at Menlo College.  Though the conference was sophomore-exclusive, junior Srilakshmi Ramesh, the first MVHS representative and a 2009 NCYLS attendee, returned as one of thirteen Junior Crew leaders.

With guest speakers like Congresswoman Jackie Speier and performer Anthony Rapp, group-activities, bonding games and lots of cheering, both Fernandes and Ramesh left the seminar with positive memories.  But it may be safe to say that the people present, not activities, make or break an event
—  and that seems to be the case at NCYLS.

"What was really nice was that everyone there was already the selected leaders from their schools so everybody was just really open," Fernandes said.  "[For example], everyone would just go 'Oh hi, I'm Neil, what's your name?'"

Ramesh explains how the people-to-people interactions are just one difference between the NCYLS and MVHS atmosphere.

"You're kind of put in a situation where you have to open up," Ramesh said.  "I think it has to do with the fact that you don't really know anyone so it's really forcing you to step out of your comfort zone."

Such an environment may be garnered from necessity, but the resulting friends can be worth it.  Ramesh and her fellow Junior Crew leaders, for example, promised to stay in touch, even agreeing to take and post a picture with a random sophomore from their respective schools while wearing matching NCYLS shirts.

As a Junior Crew leader, Ramesh was required to complete 100 hours of community service prior to joining the conference's volunteer-based staff.  Her responsibilities included working alongside an adult Team Leader in guiding a group of sophomore participants.

"It was amazing to see… the sophomores grow and you help them through the process," Ramesh said.  "Most people… they're really moved by the seminar."

According to Fernandes, he was not impacted as deeply as others at the conference, simply because he had prior understanding of the NCYLS message.  His main take-away from the conference was simply an increased appreciation for commonly under-acknowledged aspects of campus: from teachers to resources to Matador spirit.

"I look around at poster making right now, I see we've got at least 10 or 15 people from every class, at other schools that's their leadership class," Fernandes said.  "We just get so involved, if anything, what I really learned was how blessed we are in our area to have everything that we do."