Three stories about building young leaders on the east side.
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Issue 03 | October 2016


This is Dowon, one of our friends on the east side. He’s ten years old, though wise beyond his years in his sense of humor and his perfectly timed observations about the world. Last Saturday, he helped lead a discussion at our weekly community gathering. Beforehand, he met with Sandra to prepare and come up with a topic, and told us that he really wanted to talk about being stressed, and how to deal with those feelings.

“This is like high school stuff,” Dowon said.

“Big time, big time,” Sandra replied.

It was fun to watch the two of them from the sidelines as they worked out how they would lead the discussion together. Sandra would give Dowon tips on speaking in front of people and presenting ideas, and Dowon would give Sandra tips on how to use the computer.

When they printed their outline, Dowon held it over his head, grinning, then, unprompted, went straight into the next room to practice it with one of our interns, Moto. When Saturday came around, the discussion went great, and we asked Dowon how he felt about it. “My heart was racing really fast,” he said, smiling.

We’re always looking for ways to get the youth involved in leadership roles, and we’re always looking for ways to integrate our programs. Dowon attends our Lift Up Kids program for first through sixth graders, and we’re really excited to watch him grow up. In fact, we may have already gotten a glimpse of it last Saturday.


JoAnn Quick is one of our star volunteers. She’s been with us for over ten years, and is one of the people who never draws much attention to herself, but helps buoy the whole organization and everything that we do. She’s always there to support the students and take that one extra step that will make them feel accepted and welcome. 

We asked her what keeps drawing her back to The Lift, and she said:

“When the same kids come back year after year and are excited to see you. You may not see the difference you make in a kid's life initially, but when you come back year after year and see the difference the program is making, there's a desire to continue.

“A couple of weeks ago I was doing interviews with a student leader and I saw the maturity and positive change that had occurred in her attitude since meeting her over four years ago. This was a student who I thought would never get past the toughness she always had.”

We owe a ton of gratitude to JoAnn, and we want to take this space to thank her for all of her work. Thank you!


Shayla grew up on the east side and was a part of our programs from eighth grade all the way up to her sophomore year of college. She came to our youth programs, worked at our Amazon book business, and worked at the Plaza.

And… just this past spring she graduated from the Carlson School of Management at the U of M! A few weeks ago, she shared this article with us on Facebook, and left us a comment:

“I read this article and immediately thought of The Lift. Thank you for providing me with a support system that helped to facilitate my success. :)”

But that's not even the best part. Soon after she posted that, she contacted us about returning to The Lift to volunteer with our Cash In program for teens, which she’s now doing, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We think it’s so cool to see a young person we’ve been in relationship with for years circle back around to support the next generation of youth. We’re proud of the leader she’s become!


Here at The Lift, we are building leaders like Dowon and Shayla, and we’re doing it with the help of amazing volunteers like JoAnn. We’ve been around for a while, and one of the cool things about that is we can build relationships with young people like Dowon, who’s at the beginning of his journey, and see in people like Shayla where the path might lead. It’s certainly not easy, but when we have dedicated people like JoAnn helping out, it’s more possible than it ever was before.

You can help, too.

How? By marking November 17 on your calendar. That’s Give to the Max Day, when people all across the country come together to provide non-profits with monetary support. We know, we know. At best it’s unglamorous, and at worst it’s pesky and annoying. But it’s also incredibly meaningful.

With your donation, you’re building leaders.
Copyright © 2016 The Lift CDC, All rights reserved.

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