A story about the “Youth Academy” of the National Youth Forum (NYF) 2014
How did it all begin?
Has it ever happened to you to sit quietly in your office, on the couch at home, or even in the bed, aimlessly checking your Facebook? In a moment just like these, in a summer August afternoon in 2014, while I was having a rest from work at the office, I got a message from a friend. Up to this point everything seemed quite normal. But the reason he contacted me was about an invitation for an event. The truth is that I, being an active member of several youth organizations, receive such invitations every day.
Despite this, I opened the link, he sent me, and I started reading, burning with curiosity. It was about an “Academy of Young Leaders”, that was about to take place at the beginning of September at the Bulgarian seaside. Reading about it, I thought about how worn-out such words like “leader” and “leadership” sound in our everyday lives and I started wondering what I could possibly learn, given the fact that I attended quite a lot of seminars and trainings about this topics. Moreover, I’ve been personally invited to lecture on the topic of “leadership”. But, on the other hand, a late free vacation at the seaside would be perfect for me.
So, I decided to apply – in order to do this, I had to answer questions about “civil participation”, “youth policies” and “lobbying”. Not long after I received confirmation that I was approved to participate in this academy. So I packed my suitcases and headed to the seaside without any great expectations.
Atiya (Class 1 – Rhetorical skills)
Upon arrival at the slightly neglected scholar base of Atiya (near Sozopol), I already knew things would not be the way I had imagined. There were trainings, lectures, and exercises from early morning till late at night. But it was nothing like university – the knowledge we got was accompanied by interactive games and leisure activities. There were a lot of tutors, talking on different topics like youth policies, lobbying, democracy, election process, debating, and leadership. The whole information was presented in a way that made each one of us to want to learn more and more. The September beach vacation, I dreamt about, turned out to be a mirage, but it was replaced by something even more interesting, more useful, more motivating and a lot more special, namely the “Youth Academy” of NYF (National Youth Forum).
My acquaintance with about 60 young people from different parts of Bulgaria, at different ages, with different interests and different thinking made me realize that my presence there is not fortuitous. I was different from all participants and just as much as I was the same like them. These young people have, in some way, stood out from their encirclement and had the strong will to change the surroundings they live in, for the better. I was amazed at both how many things I can learn from each one of them and at the things I can teach them. The evenings spent at the beach, near the campfire, in the accompaniment of a musical instrument called “accordion”, created a unique atmosphere.
Shumnatitsa (Class 2 – Self knowledge)
After Class 1 in Atiya was over, I was bent on continuing and graduating all 3 classes of the academy, but that was not so easy. Places were limited and just half of the participants would move on. In order to get to Class 2, each person had to apply with their own initiative that they would eventually present to the other participants. So, a month later, I found myself in Borovets with 30 other academy participants.
Unlike Atiya, in the second class that took place in Shumnatitsa in the mountain resort, there were neither lectures, nor seminars. They were replaced by a lot of activities for self-knowledge, role games, group tasks, and discussions. Days went by in passionate discussions, voting on every significant and insignificant detail of our life together and lead to choosing a form of government for our micro-society (we chose monarchy, we fell victims to a person’s hidden dictatorship, then there was a “rebellion”, then another dictatorship… until we finally realized that direct democracy suits best our characteristics as a group).
As much as you would think you know yourself, you can always dig deeper in your soul and mind (especially when under extreme circumstances), find something new and develop your personality. That’s exactly what I found out together with the rest of the participants in the academy, whose second class was not the end for some of us.
Shumnatitsa (Class 3 – Trainer)
Two weeks later, again in Shumnatitsa, the last class of the youth academy took place with about 20 of the participants. The difference between this stage and the previous two stages was that the third class prepared every one of us to become a trainer and start teaching and spreading knowledge and skills among other young people from Bulgaria. My training as a trainer gave me a lot of useful information, practical knowledge, techniques and methods with which, not only did I understand how to train other people and organize seminars, but I also found out how to be more effective by communicate with other people.
Even though I have always believed in my own skills and abilities, if they had asked me before the beginning of the academy if I wanted to become “a trainer”, I would’ve rather said “no”. But, the participation in all 3 classes made me find out how much I love working with young people as well as realize that this way I can provoke a positive change, not only in myself, but in the society as well.
After the end of class 3 I was invited to join the trainers’ team of NYF, with which my journey as a trainer has just begun. But, if you are young, if you want to develop yourself, if you want to help others in their personal development and if you want to turn yourself into a good leader – then “Youth Academy” of NYF is the right place for you. 12 days of an unforgettable experience with great people.