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8 Things I Learned in My YI Advisors Fellowship

Fast and irresistible. Young and invincible.

I was assigned to YI Advisors as a fellow/intern as part of ACYPL program for four weeks. The ACYPL chose YI Advisors as my host because I have a background in healthcare, research and youth engagement, a subject that aligns with YI Advisors and Young Invincibles areas of focus. In addition, the project I proposed as a part of the ACYPL program will be related to the activities that the YI Advisors and YI are working on, like research, youth engagement and political advocacy.

Here are the eight most inspiring things that I have learned from YI Advisors and Young Invincibles:

  1. Young and energetic. All members of YI Advisors are so young. Most of them are under 35 (I think. I didn’t ask them all. Who would, by the way?). Even though they are young, they already have branches in 6 states with more than 40 staff members! It is not an easy task to built a national organization at such a young age, as people say, you haven’t enough experience yet. Nonetheless, their youth and fresh perspective is one of their biggest strengths. They are energetic, they move fast, they are passionate, enthusiastic, and ambitious. They have hope and love to see positive changes in the nation. They do what they want to do and what they should do for the people. How beautiful is that?
  2. They are big. They have more than 40 staff in six different states. I’ve pointed this in #1, but this is a point to emphasize. I would say it is quite impressive for few young people to build a non-profit organization this big. You need the right funding, people, system, infrastructure, etc. in place to make it work. Things like these might be normal in the US, but not in my country.
  3. They do something crucial. YI and YI Advisors voiced and echoed the most important thing needed by young people — health care. The name ‘Young Invincibles’ itself refers to a population of young adults who perceive themselves to be immune to getting sick or injured. YI Advisors expanded their work to include other issues that impact economic opportunities for Millennials such as education, jobs, and civic engagement with the goal of ensuring the voices of young people are being heard and accounted for.
  4. They started small with big dreams. We always heard big companies started in their garages. But how about an organization that started from a cafeteria? Sound more appetizing, right? As the story being told, Young Invincibles grew up in a law school cafeteria in Washington, DC, after co-founders Ari Matusiak, Aaron Smith and a few friends realized that young people’s voices were not being heard in the health care debate. Today, they are continuing to grow and have a national impact. They have appeared in mainstream media outlets such as The NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox news, discussing a variety of issues impacting young Americans from the cost of college to unemployment to health care. Thanks to the food in the cafe, probably.
  5. Networking is king. They have hundreds of coalition partners, from students’ organizations, private agencies, non-profit organizations, governmental bodies, politicians, etc. Their network is ‘yuge’! Don’t ask me to list them here. I dare not.
  6. They know what they’re doing. They are an ‘organization of the youth, by the youth and for the youth’. As the Internet of Things (IoT) is already in place, and as it’s well known that young people are interested in the internet and technology, YI and YI Advisors utilize this culture really well. (Almost) everything is done and managed using technology. They’ve developed a few apps, and are developing a few more to reach Millennials. They’re already moving into utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) as part of their services. How cool is that?
  7. Enthusiastic teamwork. Unlike the most organizations I know, they do their job so well — less monitoring, independent, specialized project for each member. It signifies their enthusiasm in doing things they love to do. I have no idea about how things work in other organizations here in the US, but things are a little bit different in my country. This culture might have pros and cons, but I like this impressive teamwork culture. It enables you to do things you love, grow your own potential, and reach beyond your limits, while at the same time serving your organization.
  8. Unique and diverse. Each member of Young Invincibles and YI Advisors has a unique and strong personal background, which leads to diversified roles and potential organizational growth. They can together achieve their organizational goals by working in the area they love. Even though a main focus of YI and YI Advisors is youth health care, people work on the topic from a variety of approaches aligned with their unique skillset and interests such as research, policy, technology, community outreach, and digital and traditional media. I think this culture has much to do with the educational system in the US. Internships during college are a big thing here — which is quite difference from my country.

There are many more things I can continue to learn as I interact with and get to know people at YI and YI Advisors. They are amazing people, working at an amazing organization, doing amazing things, and trying to achieve amazing dreams. They are young. And they are invincible!

Fakhrurrazi Yahaya is a fellow of American Council Young Political Leaders (ACYPL), Professional Fellowship Program (ProFellows) for Fall 2016, and a Liverpool Football Club supporter. While doing his PhD in Islamic bioethics in Universiti Sains Malaysia, he founded an NGO in Malaysia, particularly for youth engagement and empowerment. He is also an active member of Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). He can be reached at fakhrurrazi.yahaya@gmail.com

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