Local teens attend YMCA festival in Prague
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Region – Four teenage members of the Boroughs Family Branch YMCA in Westborough have lots of stories to share about their summer vacation. They were among thousands of young people from across the world who attended the YMCA “Love 2 Live” European Festival from Aug. 4 to 10 in Prague, Czech Republic. The festival is held once every five years.
The well-traveled Boroughs Y members are Michelle Crosier, entering senior year at Shrewsbury High School; Ben Macchi, entering sophomore year at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough; Rachel Purcell, entering freshman year at Westborough High School; and Cassandra Robert, entering freshman year at Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester. They were joined by Lauren Hudson, a youth development director at the Boroughs Y.
“They were so excited to get there that I didn’t hear any complaints of jet lag,” Hudson said. “The biggest highlight of the first day was actually getting to the festival and seeing it because we had been talking about it for so long.”
Preparing for the trip, they met every other week for five months with five teenage members from the two Worcester branches of the YMCA of Central Massachusetts. The nine teens travelled to the festival together with the three youth directors.
“The tight bond that they developed through all of our meetings prior to the trip just got tighter when we got there,” Hudson said. “They made new friends there and they included them in their group. They were so excited to try new things as a whole, knowing that they were representing Massachusetts.”
The festival offered workshops daily. Everyone could choose two workshops a day from a master list of over 120.
“Each workshop was presented by a different country,” Hudson explained. “They were learning origami taught by kids from Hong Kong and then later they were doing yoga with kids from Germany. The cool thing was that they didn’t stay in a clique; they each did different workshops. So then when we met for lunch, they could all share with each other about the workshops they’d done.”
The festival also featured lots of entertainment including concerts and a show called “Y’s Best Talent.”
“There was constant entertainment going on all around on several stages,” Hudson noted.
After dinner, they could visit various stations with international games and crafts.
This year, Hudson was among the young adult YMCA staff leaders worldwide selected to serve as a “change agent.” A responsibility was to nominate teens who would get the opportunity to attend the festival. Consideration was based on the Y’s values of caring, honesty and responsibility, and the pillars of youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.
“The four who went were all nominated because of their commitment to the Y,” Hudson said.
Observing the teens in Prague, she noticed how they changed during the seven-day trip.
“They definitely became more comfortable in themselves and more confident,” she said. “They were able to make new friends from across the world, which is huge. Now they’ll think it’s not so difficult meeting friends from the next town over. They got out of their comfort zone.”
Hudson also believes the festival will alter her approach to work at the Boroughs Y.
“Going to this huge festival and seeing the world on a bigger level has made me realize the importance of incorporating global aspects within the youth work I do here,” she said.
Last year, the YMCA of Central Massachusetts was one of 38 nationally to be named a Global Center of Excellence.
“We’re not just a small boroughs branch,” Hudson added. “Now, we’re a global branch.”
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