By Ali Renckens

In May teenagers from various YMCA programs met for the first annual Tampa YMCA Teen Banquet. The purpose of this banquet was to celebrate the achievements of the teens in these programs: Teen Achievers, Teen Leaders Club and Youth In Government. 

The ceremony started with a devotional led by the Teen Achievers. They listed society’s perception of teenagers: “We are unmotivated, undetermined, loud, obnoxious, rebellious…The truth is these stereotypes bind us. Tonight, we are breaking those stereotypes…This room is full of teenagers who are so much more than the stereotypes have promised our society.”

After the devotional, Chuck Ammons, chair of Campo YMCA, spoke to the group. “It’s just two words that I want to share with you: You matter.” He said, “God doesn’t want anyone to look down on you. Even though people say one day you’re going to matter, you matter right now.” When he finished, members from each group came forward to explain their club.

The Teen Achievers explained its purpose is to help teens achieve goals they set for themselves. They carefully plot out the steps to reach their goal and encourage and help each other reach them.

 Several members of the Teen Leaders Club spoke about their experience in the club. “Before Leaders Club, I was really shy. I never said how I really felt. But since joining, I’ve been inspired to change this, be more open to others and be a better person.”

Finally, members of Youth In Government, a model government for students, described the different aspects of the program; students can argue a court case, write for a newspaper or write and debate bills.

To close, one girl told the audience how the YMCA changed her life. After her mother threw her out of the house, she was judged by her poor appearance and struggled for survival. “I felt like no one in the world loved me.” That changed when she found the YMCA. “The Y, for me, has been so much more. The Y is family, a place I can eat a hot meal. The Y is my encouragement.”

When everyone was dismissed, they could take a small mirror stuck to a piece of paper that reminded them of the theme of the night: “You are SO MUCH MORE than your reflection.”

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