Volume LIVNovember 2007Number 4

Life Just Keeps Getting Better

Biggest isn't always best, but in the case of the 2007 LifeSkills/LifeChangers Conference, we really think it was. Since the conference's beginning in 2000, the staff and volunteers of LifeSkills have been instilling the values of respect, responsibility and relationships into conferees from around Pennsylvania and beyond. Again and again, our youth graduates tell us the same thing: "This week changed my life."

"What I learned about myself
is that I am actually a strong
leader and that I can lead
others on a good path"
Each year, impossible as it seems, this great thing gets even greater. Through creative and sometimes zany problem-solving and team-building activities, participants learn to trust, communicate, understand and build community. The young men and women of LifeSkills learned first-hand how to tackle conflicts and come together for common goals and mutual affirmation. Unless you've been to LifeSkills, you probably can't even imagine such a relentlessly positive atmosphere... generated and maintained by the youth involved.

One 13-year-old conferee put it this way in a thank you letter sent just after the conference: "Thank you so much for bringing me to the LifeSkills conference ... What I learned about myself is that I am actually a strong leader and that I can lead others on a good path... I don't have to follow the crowd... I'm going to bring that concept to school and use it there." This same young man asked for information on how he can get involved in DeMolay in his community.

This year's conference was also the biggest yet, with 77 youth conferees in attendance. 62 LifeSkills conferees (at least 50 of whom were attending for the first time this year) were joined by seven "LifeChangers," older youth, usually LifeSkills graduates, who are training in how to pass on" the lessons of LifeSkills; eight Counselors in Training, young adults who have completed the LifeChangers program and have been invited to assist in conference leadership; and 20 volunteer and professional adult staff.

Although the conference has gotten better and better every year, there's one complaint we just can't seem to get past: "What? We have to go HOME?" It is tough to part after such a meaningful week, but conferees take up the challenge to take LifeSkills home with them, bringing the positive messages of respect, responsibility and relationships into their daily lives in school, family and community.

Many of our conferees joined us through the generous scholarship assistance of local Pennsylvania lodges. To all of the generous Pennsylvania lodges and Masons who continue to support the programs of the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation, we say thank you for making a difference. Plans are underway for another life-changing week of LifeSkills, July 20-25, 2008.

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