Sophia B., president, YES 2020
On the weekend of March 1, 41 teens came together in St. Louis for this year’s YES (Youth of Ethical Societies) Conference. Teens from Bergen, Long Island, Mid Rivers, St. Louis, Westchester, and Washington gathered for socialization and discussion of ethical issues surrounding one main theme: the prison system and the possibilities for its reform. Led by president Sascha B., vice-president Charlotte D., secretary Devon W., and treasurer Miette A., this conference proved to be a diverting weekend full of activities, responsibility, experiences, and in-depth conversation.
The teens arrived in St. Louis Thursday night and got comfortable with each other through icebreakers and activities at the Ethical Society of St. Louis. The next day they had opportunities for sightseeing and adventure as they split into groups to explore the city. The teens had fun exploring the City Museum, contemplating art and nature in Forest Park, visiting the Arch, and perusing the historic Delmar Loop. This day of activity and fun gives the teens an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones as they navigate the city and develops the social bonds that gives the rest of the conference so much success and impact. The rest of the conference was held at Sojourn Retreat Center.
Once at the retreat center the teens had a day and a half of games, entertainment, and discussion on the prison system in America. Realizing that the issue is not widely discussed and the full extent of problems afflicting the system are not widely understood the teens watched several videos on the topic and read articles kindly provided by the coordinator, Trish Cowan. This discussion was divided into in-depth exploration of the many facets of treatment and mistreatment in prison, societal components of the prison system, families and prison, and opinions about possible reform in both legislature and the public mindset to improve all of these things. Throughout the discussions the teens were able to learn more about the issues, hear diverse perspectives and ideas, and contemplate their own roles in such a system. The conference also provided a great opportunity for growth in leadership for some of the teens, like the officers named above and the officers elected for the 2020 YES Conference, president Sophia B., vice-president Ellie O., secretary Sylvia M., and treasurer Claire A.
This weekend of fun and growth was facilitated by the support of all of the adult chaperones who volunteered their time and the American Ethical Union. We give a huge thanks to all of the chaperones, the YES advisor Trish and Law’nence (L) Miller from the AEU. We also want to thank the parent volunteers from the St. Louis Society who transported teens to and from the airport and all the way out to the retreat center in Dittmer! This conference is crucial for the development of the cohesion and dedication to Ethical Culture as a whole for Ethical teens. It allows growth in leadership and sociability, and provides an irreplaceable experience for teens to be themselves, make new friends, and grow as individuals. We look forward to YES 2020 in Washington D.C.!