From “Too Cool” to “Hooked”
Andrew Dill, 18, and Cameron Gyselinck, 19, never wanted to be part of the Tampa Y’s Leaders’ Club when they were 13 years old. Six years later, they find themselves as Honor Leaders. “I was 13, you know. Younger teens have that ‘I’m too cool’ kind of mindset,” says Cameron, 2019’s Honor Leader. “Once you experience it, that’s when you get hooked,” says Andrew, 2020’s incoming Honor Leader.
The program is designed for students in grades 7 – 12. It requires a commitment to attend regular club meetings and participate in special activities and overnight events throughout the year. Teens have the opportunity to meet new people, build new relationships, learn valuable skills, get involved in the community, earn volunteer hours and learn what it truly means to be a leader.
Cameron says confidence and friendships are the biggest gains from the club. “They’re true friends. You know they’re going to be there for you through the hills and valleys.”
Andrew agrees, saying, “Throughout my years in Leaders’ Club, I knew I always had this place and this group of people to rely on. That was really rewarding because if I was ever having a bad day, I’d text somebody or just come to the Y. It was a place to come and feel comfortable.”
Every year, eight Honor Leaders out of more than 700 students from Ys across the country are chosen to lead the Leaders’ Club’s annual retreat at Blue Ridge Leaders School in Black Mountain, North Carolina. As a reward, only 30 children from each club are selected to attend.
“It was my favorite week of my life. Because it’s hard work, yes, but, if you love what you’re doing, you’re not working at all,” said Cameron. “It was the most ‘big brother’ feeling I ever had in my life.”
“I hear what other Honor Leaders say about it and, as a leader looking at them, it’s like they’re the roles models. They’re the pinnacles of Leaders’ Club,” Andrew says. “You can’t help but look up to them and admire them. It’s kind of incredible and fascinating that I’m in that position. And I have that impact on other leaders and people are looking up to me. It’s like an epiphany.”
Andrew and Cameron, now friends, both go to Florida State University and say they probably would’ve never crossed paths had it not been for Leaders’ Club. “They didn’t want to be part of the program and now have turned into poster children for the program,” says Cameron’s mother, Marilyn.
Besides Andrew, Sofia Gonzalez from the Campo Y and Marc Weinstein from the South Tampa Y were also selected to serve as 2020 Honor Leaders. Leaders’ Club is offered at many Tampa Y locations. Contact the advisor at your family Y for more information.
Pictured above: Congratulations to the Northwest Family YMCA’s Cameron Gyselinck, 19, 2019’s Honor Leader, and Andrew Dill, 18, 2020’s incoming Honor Leader.