The Impact of the Youth Opportunity Initiative, as Told by Returning Ambassadors

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Since 2018, IYF and McDonald’s have partnered together to improve employment opportunities and reduce barriers among adolescents and young adults. The YO Ambassadors program is a part of the McDonald’s-sponsored Youth Opportunity Initiative, which focuses on helping young people develop strong leadership and collaboration skills.

Repeating an experience never brings the same results because you tend to make new discoveries the second time around. The same holds true for the Youth Opportunity (YO) Ambassadors program, which gives its members the option to return and participate in a new cohort. Returning to the YO Ambassadors program has proven to be a valuable experience for those who take advantage of it. This is because many of the skills gained throughout the program will not immediately develop overnight and require practice, patience, and dedication to evolve.

Summer 2023’s cohort features two returning ambassadors, Guadalupe “Lupita” Ibarra and Tony Reyes. The two credit the YO Ambassadors program to their increased leadership abilities, professional skills, and community involvement.

See what Lupita and Tony have to say about their decision to return, their previous experience as YO Ambassadors, and their aspirations for this iteration of the program. 

Headshot of a smiling young woman in glasses, surrounded by yellow circle.

Guadalupe “Lupita” Ibarra:
Lupita’s decision to return stemmed from her desire to acquire and improve skills such as public speaking. Not only has she showcased such skills at school and in her job, but she also has used her increased confidence to empower others as a panelist, a skill she’s learned from participating in numerous career panels with McDonald’s Corporation employees. “I have the opportunity to get more skills to help and teach more people around me,” she explains. While it is clear that Lupita strives to be a mentor to other young people, she also values having mentors of her own. She recommends the YO Ambassadors program for that exact reason, sharing that it’s “great to surround yourself with incredible people from whom you can learn.” Leaning on the mentors around her, Lupita hopes to further develop her abilities this time around, with a focus on becoming a strong entrepreneur and building strong partnerships.

Another factor in Lupita’s decision to return was her previous experience in the YO Ambassador’s program as a dedicated participant in the SOAR leadership curriculum. The SOAR (Supporting Others and Rising) Leadership curriculum is an engaging, interactive, blended learning curriculum for youth who are, or plan to be, in a leadership role. With lessons on personal leadership, collaboration, and project management, this program aims to prepare Ambassadors for future professional opportunities. 

Perhaps the strongest element of SOAR is its practical relevance. “The platform is very didactic and provides clear examples, so it makes it easy for young people to take the knowledge of the leadership program into real life,” Lupita explains. Retention of information becomes much easier with virtual, instructor-led Zoom sessions reinforcing each topic.

Headshot of young man with short blonde hair, surrounded by yellow circle.

Tony Reyes:
Similar to Lupita, Tony Reyes also mentions the SOAR curriculum influenced his decision to return to YO Ambassadors. “SOAR helps with leadership and other job skills that can help you prepare for a career,” Tony describes. The program not only aids professional development, but it also influences personal development as “you can learn a lot about how you can better yourself and your community."

Both Lupita and Tony found YO Ambassador’s career panels to be valuable because they allow members to explore different career paths. Tony learned about job opportunities available at McDonald's Corporation and gained insights into how various aspects of the business are run. While this hasn’t directly impacted his current career plans, Tony still found the experience worthwhile and interesting in his learning journey.

As Tony enters round two of the YO Ambassadors programs, he will dedicate his attention to helping his community and further developing his leadership skills. Last summer, Tony’s involvement in one of our partner community-based organizations allowed him to plan events such as One Summer Chicago. Equipped with the learnings of last summer, Tony will apply his knowledge to this year’s leadership opportunities.

No two experiences are ever the same, including the YO Ambassadors program. Even the best leaders continuously work to improve their personal and professional skillsets to better themselves and their communities. Lupita and Tony have made a conscious decision to continue learning about themselves and their communities, and McDonald’s and IYF are excited to witness their growth and achievements as returning ambassadors.

Learn more about the Youth Opportunity pre-employment initiative and the partnership between IYF and McDonald's.