March 9, 2018
Dailey Nichols, a student at Vanderbilt University and a graduate of Mountain Brook High School, wrote the following account of her experience at Anytown Alabama, a social justice leadership summit for teens held each summer in partnership with YWCA Central Alabama and National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). The YW is accepting applications for Anytown, set for June 3-9, 2018, through April 13. For information or to register, click here.
Hanging on my bathroom mirror are two things. The first, a quote reading, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest” by Elie Wiesel, and the second, a picture from my first YWCA program, a group shot with some of my now closest friends. We all had huge smiles on our faces.
If I were to describe my time in high school to anyone it would contain most of the normal, basic, boring stuff. I played a sport, worried about homework, sang in the choir and prayed I would pass my driver’s license test on the first try. But more importantly, when I recount my high school days I am able to share how much impact YWCA Central Alabama had on me as a young woman.
I grew up with very little contact with different kinds of people. Everyone in my neighborhood looked the same, everyone in my high school looked the same, and everyone I met seemed to be, you guessed it, the same. Of course these people had wonderfully unique character traits and personalities, but my life lacked the diversity I didn’t know I needed.
Then, one day my mother introduced me to one of the YWCA’s programs called Anytown Alabama. There, for the first time in my life I encountered people from different backgrounds, cultures, religions, and socio-economic groups. The small world that I had known up until that point began to crumble around me and open up into the beautiful and diverse world that I now know today.
Following that summer camp, I spent most of my time outside of school at the YWCA. I was there for monthly Peace Birmingham meetings, Anytown Ambassador meetings, Make A Change, and the summer after my senior year as an intern.
The YWCA not only gave me the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and learn about the complicated, oppressive, and challenging issues of our time, but it also gave me the tools necessary to begin combating the stereotypes and discriminatory nature of the community around me. Because of the YW, I became a stronger, more aware, and better woman. The programming they provided allowed me to learn about the bigger, more complicated things in our country, something that not many youth programs even mention.
Along the way, my emotional and intellectual growth became tied more and more to what I learned at the YWCA. I learned that I wanted to help people for the rest of my life. I learned that I wanted a diverse group of friends in every way possible. I learned how the world around me was harder for my friends of color, different sexual orientation, religion, and more. But most importantly I learned that I can help change that. Over time, I realized that the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women had also become a personal mission of mine.
The YWCA helped me feel confident enough to begin to speak to others about the issues, to bring the knowledge back to my high school and to begin to work and make it a more inclusive environment. In the end, the YWCA helped me become my best self and pushed me to do the same to others.
The YW has prepared me to go out and face the world with knowledge gained from many workshops, lectures, and discussions up my sleeve. I can effectively talk about these issues, actively listen to other people’s stories and opinions, and assess the nature of injustices in whatever environment I find myself in. I am ready and willing to build inclusive communities wherever I go and that is all thanks to my YWCA. The YWCA is on a mission and so am I.
To get involved with the YWCA or to support our programs, click here.