Homecoming week is here with New York City FC back in the Bronx this coming Saturday vs. FC Cincinnati. Before that, City in the Community, the charitable foundation proudly supported by NYCFC, was getting ready for a big 2021 too, with the CITC squad linking up for the first time in more than a year for Young Leader training at the Boys Club of New York in East Harlem. We caught up with NYCFC coach Chelsea Quito, a 2020 Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award honoree, about her work and the benefits of Young Leader Training.
Tanner Smith: Ok, so can you talk me through what this week is about?
Chelsea Quito: This week is the Young Leader Training. We are focusing on gathering kids and young adults from all over New York City to take part in our Young Leader Training. That will allow them to learn about leadership, adaptability, and how to engage with their community and give back through those characteristics, as well as learning how to become a community coach and what that entails.
TS: How has this year been different compared to past years?
CQ: This year, due to COVID, we are not allowed to have as many participants, but it allowed for better interactions because the setting is a little bit more intimate. Obviously, we would have COVID protocols where we would have to be distanced, and we can be as interactive, and we can’t have kids take part in our festival, but that’s not going to stop us from having our festival. We’re still going to take part, we’re going to allow each other to showcase what they learned this week.
TS: What kind of changes do you see in the participants from day one to now?
CQ: In the beginning, you know, teenagers, we can be a little bit hostile, but in the beginning, they were definitely more shy, more quiet, a little bit more hesitant to take part and participate. After the end of day one, I believe they were able to relate to us and connect and see that this is an experience for them to grow. In order for that to happen, they have to come out of their shell and be a little bit more vulnerable with us, but we established that this is for them. The beginning of day two, everyone was ten times more energetic, everyone was engaging, everyone was talking to one another -- people that they’ve never spoken to before. It was pretty awesome to see the change from day one to today. They’re in groups now; they’re hanging out, you see them talking to one another when they’re not in groups. Even if they didn’t know each other before, they know each other now, and they feel comfortable in this space that we created for them.
TS: What do you enjoy most about this? What keeps you coming back?
CQ: I’m very passionate about the work that I do. I love giving back to my community, but for me, the young leader training especially hits home because I started off as one of them. I was a young leader in their position, taking the week-long training, and I didn’t know how amazing and how many doors would open for me, and now I’m leading it, which is not something that I thought I would do back in 2017. I’m definitely grateful for that opportunity. I want to be able to share that experience with the participants this week, and allow them to be excited for their future and see that there’s many opportunities if they just take the first step of showing up.
TS: What are some of the skills that you guys are trying to teach these kids this weekend?
CQ: We definitely want to teach them about leadership. Leadership is something that will allow them to grow, will allow them to continue to learn, and allow them to take opportunities that they might not have been open to taking before. We also want to teach them about the importance of communication.
TS: Why do you think it’s important for young people to participate in this program?
CQ: Even though they are sacrificing their spring break, and they have to wake up in the morning, I definitely think they’re taking the initiative and having lots of fun in our sessions, learning how to be a coach, but also learning from the perspective of a participant. They’re also making new friends and connecting with them on a work level as far as where they want to see themselves in the future and having people around them that have a similar end goal.