CARISSA YINMEDTuesday, July 10 – Imagine Extravagant Welcome
Carissa Yinmed is a sophomore attending Baldwin High School in Wailuku, Maui. She attends Iao United Church of Christ of the Hawaii conference. When asked to share on the NYE 2012 theme Imagine, Yinmed writes, "I Imagine a world where everyone is not treated differently because of their color, race, or where they come from but by who they are as persons. I imagine a church where everyone loves each other as God loved everyone."
Yinmed cites the Western Regional Youth Event as being one of the most interesting experiences in her life because it was the first time she left the island to travel to what she calls the mainland.
"On the first day we were there we felt like everyone was looking at us because we looked different from the rest of them. By the next day we were all having fun and laughing together like we knew each other for a very long time. We learned many new things about God and the way to live our life together with God and to spread the word," says Yinmed. This is Yinmed's hope for NYE too. She hopes her peers will experience extravagant welcome in overwhelming ways they won't soon forget and take it back to wherever they are from to pass it on.
ZACH KOMESWednesday, July 11 - Imagine a Healthy World
Zach Komes is a rising college freshman and student community activist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is a proud member of Bethel Bethany United Church of Christ of the Wisconsin Conference. In 2005, at the age of 10, he and his sister organized the "E-Z Coffee Stand," a neighborhood summer coffee stand fundraiser for charities. Over the past seven summers, his project has raised $6,500 to drill for water in Sub-Saharan Africa, support a local homeless shelter, and other causes.
Community activism is also one of Komes' main interests, as he has been Student Coordinator of his school's Amnesty International/ACLU Chapter for three years. His outreach includes organizing a student walkout to protest education funding cuts, leading a fundraiser to support Haitian earthquake victims and collecting letters to protect jailed human rights activists around the world. Komes has also created a Facebook campaign to highlight positive youth actions in the community to combat racism and prejudice he says he witnessed in his Milwaukee Public Schools. The campaign has drawn media attention and over one thousand participants. When Komes is not engaging social activism, he enjoys snorkeling.
Komes does not feel he is too young to imagine a healthier world and he knows he is not alone. "I appreciated meeting other youth from around the country who all came from different backgrounds and cultures but shared similar values," he shares of his past NYE experiences. "Despite the great struggles and pain that each of us endures in life, the eagerness to create a better future always exists," says Komes on how he imagines a healthier world and a better tomorrow.
DIEGO TORRESThursday, July 12 – Imagine a World Where Differences Are Embraced
Diego Torres is famously known for using the quote: "God will never leave you hangin!" He shares, "It brings me hope and assurance that I have a God that is always with me." Torres is from Lowell, Massachusetts where he attends Iglesia Hispana De La Communidad de Lowell. On most Sundays, the church is overflowing with youth and the youth are leading the worship. But Torres shares, he was not always enthusiastic about being in church.
"At an early age going to church was the last thing I wanted to do. I felt as if I was too young to interpret what the pastor was even saying. The majority of the churches even excluded my family from participating in the church events," Torres shares. After not attending church for a few years, he finally went back and now he even helps to lead the service through music and the arts, along with his brother and peers. By the way, Torres' peers outnumber the adults 2:1 at church.
"The word of God is the most essential part of my life" Torres shares. He adds, "Imagining a greater life is great! However, we need to act on what we imagine. At NYE I know lives will be touched and hearts moved…and NYE may bring forth a new generation of [believers.]"
MIAH NOEL YAGERFriday, July 13 – Imagine One Church
Miah N. Yager is a Fairview High School senior of Boulder, Colorado where she attends First Congregational Church of Boulder. She spends a great deal of time as a writer for her school's newspaper, an athlete on her school's swim team, being a big sister to her two siblings and she has been dancing since the age of two. Yager particularly enjoys Hip-Hop and modern dance. She thrives off of being creative and using her gifts to make a difference.
"I have gone to church work camps in South Dakota, San Antonio, Arkansas, and Belize," Yager shares. On these work camps she taps into her creativity. At work camps, she enjoys, "Being artistic, writing songs non-stop, dancing on stage and set design."
Yager says the NYE theme imagine inspires her to imagine a world embracing who you are. "As a disability student in high school, I've experienced moments where 'being perfect' is all that matters, but 'being perfect' is boring. You just need to be normal," Yager says. "We all put high expectations on ourselves that makes us stressed out… like handling our social lives. Being different is a good thing." It is Yager's hope to see a world free from violence where friends don't hurt friends, but help them instead. She says she imagines a place with an opportunity to grow and where we are not hurting the world we live in. And her greatest wish is for persons who are different to be accepted as they are. "The main thing that bugs me the most is that some magazines don't have someone with a disability on it," Yager shares. "I feel sad that they are not being portrayed. This is what I hope youth will gain from NYE."
YAMNI BOBTAIL BEARFriday, July 13 – Imagine One Church
Yamni Bobtail Bear is Lakota from Little Eagle, South Dakota. Yamni is a member of the Elk Horn United Church of Christ. He looks forward to joining nearly two dozen youth from the Council for American Indian Ministry at the National Youth Event.
Yamni will co-facilitate a Lakota Language workshop where participants will learn hymns and explore the history of Lakota language. His keynote on Friday, co-presented with other CAIM youth will be a collection of stories on the theme "Imagine One Church."
ANPA WANBLI TECA WIN (LONNA ANDREWS)Friday, July 13 – Imagine One Church
Lonna M. Andrews' Lakota name, Anpa Wanbli Teca Win means New Dawn Eagle Women. She is a junior in high school. Anpa enjoys playing all sports and participates in drama and a variety of after school programs.
"I love to dance at Wacipi [(Pronounced wa-chee-pee) or] PowWows and try to go to as many as I can a year," she says. Wacipi is a celebration in Native American culture that involves dancing and other art forms. Anpa attends Ponca Creek UCC along with the majority of her family. She shares excitedly, "I am very thankful for this opportunity to go to Indiana and Purdue University to share in the NYE experience."