Summer Youth Facilitation Institute Reflection: Erika Suarez

Erika Suarez here, been here for three summers now! What a blast! The love and care at the Gandhi Institute is amazing. As soon as you come in you’re welcomed with lots of love.

Over my three summers being here I’ve learned lots of skills. I’ve learned how to facilitate youth and adult groups. I also learned great group leadership skills. When i first came here i didn’t even know how to facilitate one group, now I can teach a group of 100 people! The Gandhi Institute taught me to be confident and to be wise. The Institute taught me to be wise by all the wonderful examples they give to one another. During the Roc Restorative Conference, I introduced Doctor Monique Morris in front of 500 people! Thanks to the Gandhi Institute I was able to do that.

The highlights of my summer here at Gandhi were the Fairport workshop and Rochester City School District’s Harambe Summer Literacy Program. Getting to teach the children of Harambee means everything to me. They look up to me and make me feel like I am able to do anything. They inspire me as much as I inspire them. I teach them that nonviolence is the key to all amazing things in life. Like getting to do things nonviolently makes your life go smoothly.

The Fairport workshop was another highlight because I got to speak about racism and school diversity and they also spoke on those topics. Here at Gandhi we make everyone feel comfortable. So as we spoke on the topics we all agreed and were very happy with one another. Yes there were some challenges about speaking on the diversity and race topic like getting everyone to understand your point of view. But getting to see stuff from my perspective and then from another perspective is amazing.

This summer is my third summer back at the Gandhi Institute. I work with my Peace In The Garden team and we teach the children at Harambee about nonviolence. We teach them to be wise and kind. Just getting to see them laugh makes me very happy. And it’s always a familiar face with Mrs.Erika around! When the Harambee programming was over, I led many workshops with my SYFI team, like the ones I  talked about above. I also worked in the garden weeding plants, and passing out vegetables to the community grown here in our garden.

Every time I come back each summer I learn something new. My first summer I learned there’s more to life than just fighting. I went back and showed my friends there’s programs out there that care about you and look out for youth like us that feels lost. My second summer I learned the meaning of “it takes a village to raise a child.” I took that back to my community in my own area of town and showed them kindness and that everyone’s always needed. I did cookouts and passed out hot cocoa during the winter to the people in my neighborhoods. This summer I’ve learned that no matter how many times you lose, you’re just one step away from winning. I’ll take that back to my school and show my friends that even when you feel defeated or lost there is always a win if you just believe.

This is my summer experience at the Gandhi Institute. I loved it here and I’ll be back next summer to learn and inspire new people. And to also to make more connections and create new friendships. See ya!