By Sarah Glisky
The Youth of Ethical Societies (YES) Conference this year brought together a group of teens from Ethical Societies across the country, including eight teens from the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County. The YES conference is an opportunity for teens to meet with other humanist youth to discuss topics they themselves have chosen and organized the three-day conference around. The conference is their space to understand and explore their place in the world and to open up about issues that affect them and the Ethical Cultural movement as a whole. Most importantly, it is an opportunity for the youth to develop potential solutions for the conference theme and issue(s) surrounding the topic.
Eight of our youth members and one chaperone enjoyed a three-day weekend in St. Louis, Missouri, for discussion, social activities, brainstorming, performance, ceremonies and bonding. This year’s theme was about America’s prison system. The youth discussed their concerns and brain-stormed ways they felt they could contribute to prison reform.
This year’s conference was moved to March instead of November, and that ended up creating a little excitement because a snowstorm rolled through St. Louis on its way to the East Coast. The storm didn’t hit St. Louis too badly, but it did leave our New Jersey and New York youth groups temporarily stranded in Missouri when flights were canceled.
Some comments from the Bergen County Youth Group who attended the conference:
“The highlight of the conference for me is always the people I get to spend time with, but this year, for whatever reason, it was extra special.”
“I learned so much about the prison system that I didn’t previously know. The group discussions truly enlightened and motivated me.”
“I loved seeing my friends from last year and meeting new people and hanging out with everyone!”
“My favorite part of the conference was getting to talk to like-minded people from all across the country. It was really inspiring and motivating to see everyone’s ideas and opinions throughout the weekend.”
“The bonds that I have formed through this conference are one of the biggest things that kept me coming back year after year, and definitely what I’ll be missing the most.”
Our youth look forward to next year’s conference in Washington, DC. Excelsior!
Photos by Richard Hibbert