Keystone Conference 2022
It was 1:20 am on the last night of the 2022 National Keystone Conference (a service and leadership program for high school members), and I was sitting in the hallway of the Hilton Anaheim Hotel waiting to be relieved by other advisors so I could go get a few hours of sleep before our next busy day. Advisors, like me, take shifts in the halls to make sure all the Keystoners (teen leaders) stay in their rooms and are sleeping.
Suddenly one of the doors flung open, and a gift card came flying through the air, landing in the middle of the hotel hallway. This was followed by howling laughter behind the recently slammed shut door. I jumped up to see what happened as all the Keystoners were supposed to be fast asleep. As I checked in on the culprits, I found the two in the room on a FaceTime call playing a game with the rest of our Keystone members! I reminded them to go to sleep and asked them to get off FaceTime since we had an early morning. All the advisors then texted our group chat, ensuring that all the teens would see it, reminding them they need to be asleep. The teens assured us they were asleep by sending “proof of sleep photos.”
Ten minutes later laughter erupted yet again but this time from a different room, resulting in a chain reaction of laughter from the surrounding rooms. All the advisors looked at each other and rolled our eyes and laughed a bit, as they were having so much fun. But they also needed to sleep, and it was the teens third “offense,” so there had to be a consequence. The Keystoners had left us no choice, we had to confiscate everyone’s phones.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, we’ve had to take a deep look at what or teens need as we enter a new “post pandemic” era. What we’ve found is that our teens need a space to just be teens and to have fun. Throughout the pandemic, so many teens cared for younger siblings, started jobs, or fell into depression without access to their safety nets at school and at the Club. I knew that making sure that these teens had the most fun on this trip was a top priority. As advisors, we met weekly to plan the safest and most fun travel experience for our teens as we could.
We believe in doing whatever it takes to support our youth. Keystone in a core program for high school Club members. All across the country Boys & Girls Club teens work on service projects and raise funds to attend the annual Keystone National Conference.
Of course, we had to start our trip at Disneyland as a thank you to our teens for all the amazing and hard work they have done.
If you have never taken a large group of teens to an amusement park, it can be a challenge to make sure everyone stays safe. We were able to make sure everyone had a fun time staying safe, drinking water, keeping sunscreen applied, and making sure to eat. Every hour we had the groups send us photos of where they were and doing each task. We called them “proof of” photos.
After our Day at Disney it was time to rest and get ready for the conference to start in full. Our members learned how they can have an even bigger impact in their community, as well as has a chance to do community service. Some of our Keystoners were part of an X-Bots Robotics Mobility Program presented by PPG to impact toddlers with mobility challenges.
On that final night, at 1:30 am we took the phones. These are responsible teens who have been working hard to go on this trip and they all knew the expectations. They are still just kids though, and they needed that reminder for bedtime. Weeks later, I asked what the highlight of the trip was for our Keystone president. It wasn’t Disneyland, it wasn’t getting to travel with his best friends, and it wasn’t the conference we had been working towards for the last three years because of the pandemic. It was the bonding and silliness that happened when all of Keystoners phones got taken away.
After two years of not getting to have experiences like this, the teens where itching to have some time to just be kids. For many of the juniors and seniors this was last high school trip. We are so happy we got to provide this opportunity for these young leaders. Through Keystone, teens gain service and leadership skills, and focus on academic success, career preparation, community service, teen outreach, and FUN.
In 2019 as the senior teen director, I helped two of our Clubs complete their Keystone charter and attend the national conference. Although I have transitioned out of that roll and passed the torch to Hannah Tait, it is hard to say goodbye. I am so happy I got to be involved 2022 conference, making sure these young leaders got to have fun after a hard few years. Now I am excited to be able to share the amazing impact my peers are having on the lives of so many young people in my new role in Club Marketing. In 2022 four Clubs attended the Keystone conference, and in 2023 we hope that number can be even higher. We are so excited for what these young leaders are going to bring to the world.