From left to right: Superintendent Todd Lile, Avery Cordero, Lorena Ortiz, Johnny Mendez. (Jazmin Alvarado/Journalists of Color)

On March 30, the Youth Leadership Institute celebrated their five year anniversary of being in the Madera community. 

The event was organized as a way to celebrate the work the students of Madera high schools have done in the span of five years and to display how their work has made a difference. 

“This event is highlighting all the accomplishments and ideas that youth have been implementing,” said Avery Cordero, a yli alumni. 

The event took place at the John W. Wells Youth Center in Madera, and featured guest speakers which included staff and youth, and a snack bar with free fruit and pastries. 

The yli Madera program is in partnership with Madera Unified School District. Both Madera and Madera South High School offers Principles of Leadership, an elective class which works hand in hand with yli. 

Lorena Ortiz, a freshman at Madera South, said she hopes that being a part of yli will make her a better communicator and will help her make a difference in her community.

“Being a part of the program, I hope to learn a lot about being accepting of different ideas and perspectives,” Ortiz said. “I hope to be able to discuss with people and to use the information to make a change that will help others.”

The main goal of this partnership is to empower the youth of the community and create the next generation of leaders. 

“The most important thing that yli is going to do for Madera Unified is to create a really core group of student leaders that go on to be adult leaders and lead this community,” said Todd Lile, the superintendent of Madera Unified. “They’ll come back and teach, run for office, build businesses and lead our community to a better place.” 

Johnny Mendez, the program manager for yli Madera, said he doesn’t see the partnership ending. He said he receives a lot of positive feedback about the program. 

“We’re taking our yli curriculum and embedding it into the classroom across a whole year,” Mendez said. “Hearing the stories from people and how the program has positively impacted them is amazing. I don’t see this partnership ending.”

In the future, yli Madera hopes to continue to uplift and empower youth and increase the amount of diversity in their programs. Within the next few years they plan to expand their partnership to all the high schools in Madera Unified. 

Jazmin Alvarado (she/her)

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