For the majority of students this trip to the state house was a first, so representatives and long-time YouthBuild supporters Byron Rushing and Gloria Fox wanted to make it a memorable one. Both have become known around the YouthBuild community for their inspirational talks, and as a State House Day first-timer I soon found out why. While they differed slightly in content, both speeches were equally motivational and before we had a chance to settle in students were on their feet chanting and cheering louder than what I thought was allowable at the State House. "Whose house is this?!" Rushing and Fox would ask the students. "Our house!" they would reply in unison. It felt more like pre-game locker room pump up speech than anything else and it certainly relieved any anxiety that State House Day rookies were experiencing.
For most, what would've been a tough act to follow was no problem for Angel Diaz, YB New Bedford Educator and State House Day Emcee. He shared the story of his transformation from high school drop-out to Harvard scholar, and implored students to take advantage of their time at YouthBuild. He advised them to identify their goals, then plan, in detail, how to achieve them -- or as he put it -- to "see it before you seize it." His enthusiasm was infectious and soon students were jumping at the opportunity to speak to their peers about their YouthBuild experience. They would eventually get their chance. Diaz introduced student speakers from all ten programs who took turns sharing some very personal and uplifting stories about the changes they've made since joining YouthBuild.
Following the award presentations, Angel Diaz took the stage one more time for some closing remarks, most memorable of them being: "We can't choose our relatives, but we can choose our family. At YouthBuild we're all family."
With that, students separated into groups by program and set out to meet the representatives from their districts, hoping to secure funding for next year's students by sharing with legislators their hopes, aspirations, and the changes that YouthBuild has made in their lives.