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Indelible IMPACT

Read this story in Detroit Jewish News

Service, advocacy and leadership. On BBYO's IMPACT: D.C. summer experience 2014, many teens from around the U.S. and Canada had the opportunity to learn about current issues, voice their opinions and help out the community while creating lifelong friendships and enjoying what most of us would consider the best 12 days of our lives.

My experience in D.C. was absolutely incredible, and I cannot think of any other opportunity even slightly similar to this one that I could possibly be offered again in my lifetime. This program was similar to the other two IMPACT programs offered through BBYO because of the service and leadership chances we were given, but very different from the other two locations, Boston and Chicago, because of the advocacy and sightseeing opportunities.

Unlike the other locations, being stationed at the University of Maryland Hillel provided us with even more incredible experiences, such as seeing the Capitol and the White House, being able to lobby with our state groups and exploring the unique sites near the heart of D.C.

Mornings usually began with breakfast at the Hillel followed by volunteer work at our service site or taking a bus to the site we were going to explore that day. The service site choices included helping out at the Wider Circle furniture warehouse and packaging food at different food banks. I was fortunate enough to move around and get to volunteer at both service sites, which gave me the opportunity to gain multiple perspectives.

As a group, we also all gained a new viewpoint when we visited MacPherson Square. There we were encouraged to get to know a homeless citizen and then give that person our bagged lunch rather than just handing them the food and walking away without communicating. We got to hear all of their different views about being homeless in D.C, rather than the cities they traveled from and just being homeless in general. We also heard their words of advice.

Followed by limmud, our Jewish learning sessions, we continued into the evening. We had dinner and then began our advocacy sessions to prepare to lobby with our state groups. To finish off the day, we typically had an evening program planned by our two teen coordinators, and then we met up with our circle groups to reflect on our day and share our excitement for the upcoming programs. Some additional unique activities we participated in were Israeli dancing, visiting the U.S. Holocaust Museum, college tours, hearing from different speakers and our final lobby day.

In the 12 days spent on IMPACT: D.C, the leadership skills and new viewpoints we formed while having an amazing time and exploring a new part of the world are incredible and inspired us all to make a change.

Jessica Lusky of West Bloomfield Is a junior at Bloomfield Hills High School. Matthew Fealk and Jessica Lusky, both of West Bloomfield, and llissa Chasnick of Farmington Hills

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