Reflecting on the Fall 2022 Youth Opportunity Ambassador Cohort

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Photo collage of YO Ambassadors

The Youth Opportunity (YO) Ambassador Program was founded to create “a safe space, positive youth development, and lifelong learning” IYF Workforce Development Director, Ivelina Benitez, explained during the Youth Opportunity Fall 2022 culminating ceremony, a celebration of the most recent YO Ambassador cohort.

IYF's Executive Vice President of Programs, Jorge Barragan, echoed Ivelina’s sentiments. “Life skills and leadership skills training are critical to unlocking the potential young people have to construct their lives, the lives of others, entire communities, and to become purposeful leaders and change agents,” he remarked during the event.

The YO Ambassador Program’s commitment to career development and leadership training is one reason YO Ambassador Tony Reyes has participated in four cohorts to date. “My Youth Opportunity Ambassador experience has been amazing,” Tony shared confidently with attendees.

Tony was one of 17 Ambassadors from eight states who were nominated by coaches and mentors to complete the YO Ambassador Program this fall. “Each Ambassador comes to this opportunity with a unique background and walk of life, different interests, career aspirations, and dreams. One thing that’s united us all over the past six months is a commitment to learning new skills and unlocking our professional potential,” reflected YO Ambassador David San Lorenzo, who facilitated part of the culminating ceremony.

The Fall 2022 YO Ambassador cohort completed five career panels where they explored mentorship and vocational opportunities with employees from McDonald’s Corporation and beyond. They also participated in life skills panels that addressed mental health and well-being, and writing workshops that explored storytelling, building a personal brand, and public speaking. Finally, Ambassadors were granted access to SOAR, an award-winning curriculum that teaches personal leadership values, different collaboration styles, and project management best practices, along with the relationship between self-care and leadership.

The Ambassadors’ newfound leadership skills were on full display during the event, as Kayla Kellybrew and Taylor Grant-Wright joined David and Tony in facilitating sessions, and Lupita Ibarra proudly shared her reflections during the event’s closing, emphasizing her appreciation of the learning experiences she shared with fellow Ambassadors.

If YO Ambassador Ryah Klima’s reflection is any indicator, it’s no wonder these young people lead with confidence. “This experience helps people become the best possible version of themselves,” she said.

The YO Ambassador Program is made possible because of the dedication of young people, the support of community partners, and the commitment of McDonald’s Corporation, which is integral to the overall success of the program.

So where will this cohort of phenomenal young people go next?

Daniel Dabney hopes to become a writer and credits the YO Ambassador Program for connecting him with professionals who provided him with various insights on how to become successful.

Nakeda Raggs wants to be a businesswoman and lawyer with a nursing degree, aspirations she enjoyed discussing with others during the YO Ambassador Program.

David San Lorenzo learned the importance of leadership during the program and will certainly carry this lesson to his future endeavors.

To the Fall 2022 cohort of Youth Opportunity Ambassadors, we look forward to following your professional journeys, and we’re excited to witness the profound impact you make in your communities.

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