A Youth Perspective: “My Goldmine Experience” By: Yette Gram
North Shore Unitarian Church, West Vancouver, BC
How can one summarize Goldmine, the single most life changing experience of one’s young life to someone who has never had the undeniable pleasure of completing this program? I’ll start with the program itself.
In Goldmine the youth of the UU community are taught leadership in ways that nothing else can do. We learn about our history as UU’s, about what our religion is all about, and are given time to dive deeper into our own personal credo. We create worships, discuss our lives and spirituality, learn about what it takes to have a balanced youth group, the different kinds of leaders and get launched into a world where youth leadership is highly valued and extremely important.
Personally, Goldmine gave me the confidence to take on roles such as Co-chair of the BCYAC [BC Youth Adult Committee], and staff on many a youth conference, and excel in those positions. If you look at the youth in leadership in both the PNWD and the BC region, you can clearly see that the vast majority of us are Goldmine grads. It gave us a drive to take what we were taught, and bring it back to our communities to share some of the wonder we found there.
A large part of what makes Goldmine so special is also the connections forged with other youth. After spending a week of intense personal discovery with 29 or so other youth, you share a bond like no other. I have never felt closer to anyone than I do with my Goldmine class, and I only see them at cons and other UU gatherings. I even feel deeply connected to Goldmine grads of other years, just because they know what I went through. It is that special connection that drives us to connect the youth at home with the greater community, to get each other to cons, and to make sure they happen.
Goldmine is an inspiration to take the lead and forge ahead, making youth programming in our regions, countries and continent better, healthier, and more fun for all who participate, youth and sponsors alike
An Adult Perspective – By: Rev. Elizabeth Stevens
Kitsap Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Bremerton, WA
Dear Church Leaders,
If you are considering hosting a Goldmine Youth Leadership School, I’d like to encourage you to do so! We hosted Goldmine in our congregation for the first time last summer, and it was a very rich experience. It takes a little planning, but you’ll find it is well worth the effort. There will be tangible benefits; one of the days [of the program] the youth are expected to do a service project, and frequently it is a project that directly benefits the host congregation.
In our case, the youth worked on our grounds, clearing out an old fire circle and helping to dig fence posts for a new community garden as their service project. This work ethic extended all week. When there was something that needed doing, whether it was dishes or vacuuming or carrying boxes, we had plenty of enthusiastic volunteers. The commitment is that each group will ‘leave the building cleaner than it was when we arrived;’ our bathrooms never looked (or smelled) so good.
Deeper than that are the intangibles. You will feel more connected to the larger movement, because the youth come from all over. You will be serving our faith by supporting future leaders, and serving the wider community as well. Goldmine is a transformational experience for the youth who attend. They leave ready to ‘heal the world’, and having spent time with twenty four luminous souls (I also served on staff), I believe they will probably succeed. The school needs a lot of space, so it’s best to schedule it at a time when the building isn’t scheduled to be heavily used. If it’s possible for someone from your congregation to be on staff, that is ideal. If not, I’d recommend a ‘host’ to come in and orient the youth to the building, help with the service project, and supervise the final cleanup. It’s also a good idea to emotionally prepare your congregation to share their sacred space with a bunch of teenagers. Each generation must find its own way to authentic religious community, learning from the generations that have gone before but also charting new territory. You may want to remind your congregation that different generations have different social norms, and to reassure them that everything that is happening is deeply grounded in our shared values.
I’ll close with two brief stories: the shooting in Knoxville occurred in the midst of Goldmine this year. The youth were shaken, but rallied with passion and commitment to clean and reorganize the space and help lead a vigil in memory of the people who were shot. The building sparkled and the service was amazing, with contributions from some extremely talented young musicians. What a gift to my congregation!
The following day, they were doing anti-racism work, and the session was running late. It was past lunch time. We offered to cut it short so that they could eat, but the youth wanted to keep working! The most dedicated of adults might have a hard time choosing anti-racism work over food. When the youth made that choice, I knew that we were witnessing something truly amazing. I hope that you choose to host Goldmine, so that you can enjoy that opportunity, as well.
Elizabeth H. Stevens