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lifeLifeChangers Enhance Masonic LifeSkills
by Bro. Thom Stecher, Thomson Lodge No. 340

The Pennsylvania Youth Foundation hosted the first LifeChangers Conference on June 22 to June 30, 2005. LifeChangers grew out of our experience with the Masonic LifeSkills Conference. Young adults 17 to 21 who participated in LifeSkills asked for more training and skill development so that they could be a positive influence in their community.

The purpose of LifeChangers was to teach participants how to make a difference in their Masonic youth groups, religious organizations, teams and families. LifeChangers model respect for self and others, and take responsibility for what they think, feel, say and do. They also seek to build healthy relationships. In the LifeChangers Conference participants worked through activities that emphasized the deeper meaning behind the LifeSkills lessons. They learned the qualities of being a leader and role model. They were taught the theory and practice of group and team development. They learned facilitation skills, which many of them brought back to our LifeSkills Conference as

Counselors-In-Training. They focused on time and stress management and enjoyed the process of improvisation and spontaneity training. Each participant left the LifeChangers training with a specific goal and action plan to make change in their community. Many of their goals impacted our LifeSkills Conference, which finished our 6th year of implementation July 24 to 29, 2005.

In our LifeSkills Conference the Counselors-In-Training (CITs), all of whom were trained at LifeChangers, made an immediate impact on the conference. Their leadership and modeling led to a tremendous experience for 80 participants. There was an overwhelming positive atmosphere throughout the week. By week's end staff and CITs were facilitating LifeSkills lessons that all would take back home.

It is heartening to watch 12 to 16 year old participants practice manners holding doors, saying please and thank you, cleaning up after themselves, and taking responsibility when they make a mistake. All participants achieved success as they supported each other through mental, emotional, physical and social challenges.

Our LifeSkills Conference is a true Masonic family event. In our closing session we shared Masonic values with over 250 children, parents and guardians. The PA Youth Foundation and the facilitation team of Thom Stecher and Associates, along with Masonic volunteers and Masonic youth leaders have created two conferences that serve PA youth ages 12 to 21. Our work in these two conferences has spread the message of Masonry to children who were related to, or sponsored by, Pennsylvania Masons but whose families live in PA, NJ, DE, MD, VA and WV.

Like the Masons before us we are building our future through leadership, role modeling, and service. We are transforming lives that, in turn, will eventually transform our world.

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