Luminary Leader Richelle Perry – Profiled
Luminary Leaders is a recognition program for youth. Throughout the year, we’ll showcase recently recognized leaders here on Blue Boat. This profile features a newly recognized leader with a tremendous commitment to social justice.– Ed.
Name: Richelle Perry
Congregation: UU Fellowship of Jefferson City
– Youth Midwest Leadership School,
– National Youth Justice Summit (participant and staff),
– Blogger with Interfaith Youth Activist (http://bit.ly/12IR1rz),
– Take Back the Night March coordinator
Richelle was recognized for her tremendous commitment to social justice both by Luminary Leaders and as the recipient of the Mary Ella Holst Youth Activist Award presented by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Her leadership also extended to numerous congregational and district committees and planning teams. We asked Richelle to share more about her leadership experiences and what’s next.
BB: Can you tell us more about the award you received at GA?
I received the 2013 UUSC Mary Ella Holst Youth Activist Award given by the UU Service Committee to youth in recognition of activism and leadership to advance social justice and human rights. I was nominated by Elizabeth Nguyen, a UU social justice mentor of mine with whom I worked on planning curriculum for the National Youth Justice Training. I received the award for my work with National Youth Justice Training, and the reproductive justice activism I do in my local community and my online interfaith advocacy through the Interfaith Youth Activist blog. I’m so excited and proud to receive this awesome honor! Luckily I already had plans to attend GA when I found I was receiving the award, so I was able to accept it from Bill Schulz at a UUSC reception during General Assembly. That night was mind-blowing, and one I’ll always remember.
BB: What was your favorite part of being a youth leader?
Right now is a time of vast and exciting changes and growth for Unitarian Universalism. I’m grateful to have been involved in youth leadership during this time, working with the young people who are now shaping the future of our denomination. I live in the Central Midwest District, which just became part of the new MidAmerica Region, so the spirit of change and progress has been twofold while we’ve figured out what youth and young adult ministry will look like in coming years. On another note, one of my favorite things is hanging out with other UU teenagers. Taking advantage of leadership opportunities and being as active as possible on a congregational, regional, and national level means I get to do that absolutely as often as possible.
BB: Is there a particularly memorable experience you want to share?
For me, everything started at my first con, in spring of my sophomore year. My congregation has a very small youth group – in the four years I’ve been involved, our largest meeting has had maybe 6 people and the typical meeting has 2 or 3 – and is pretty far away from the Chicago area where most Central Midwest youth conferences are held. I was completely overwhelmed that weekend, and barely met or spoke to anyone except the two other kids from my church and the people in my touch group. But I left knowing I would never get enough of the enthusiasm and incredible love I felt in that community. I heard someone mention Youth Midwest Leadership School at that con, and applied as soon as I got home. Had it not been for that first wonderful, scary, inspiring, wild, and loving weekend, I wouldn’t be doing any of the work within my UU communities that I am today.
BB: Why are you a Unitarian Universalist?
My parents went to UU church before I was born, and we started going again after moving to Missouri from Washington DC as a way to get in touch with the community here. After a brief foray in to Catholicism during my years at a parochial grade school, my mom and I returned to our local UU church after my parent’s divorced when I was 14. I feel like I’ve always been Unitarian Universalist, even when I wasn’t going to church at all or was going to Mass twice a week, because my value and beliefs have always been pretty typically UU. I am agnostic and passionate about social justice, and my favorite thing about Unitarian Universalist is how our beliefs call us to live in intentional community and right relationship with each other. Coming back to UU church freshman year was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
BB: What are you up to now?
I am moving to Beloit, Wisconsin to start college. I just returned from Boston where I was on staff at the UU College of Social Justice’s National Youth Justice Training. I will also be serving on a young adult ministry advisory group in MidAmerica starting this fall, and plan to work with my college to start a UU campus ministry group once I get to school. For the rest of the summer, my plans are to hang out in air conditioning with my cats, my mom, and my best friend before moving away.
BB: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming youth leaders?
Follow what you are passionate about. Parliamentary procedure nerd? Start going to committee meetings at your congregation, join some, find out how to become a delegate to General Assembly. Love social justice? Check out what activism youth in your area are already doing, get in touch with district or regional leadership about planning a social justice youth conference, attend a UUCSJ youth program. Interested in ministry or chaplaincy? Find a youth chaplaincy training, talk to your congregation’s minister or lay leader about getting involved in worship planning and leading, work with your youth group to plan a youth service. No matter what you’re interested in within the broader area of “youth leadership,” there’s something for you out there, and you don’t have to do everything to be a leader. Challenge yourself, but pursue your passions and see where they can take you.
Are you an outstanding youth leader, or do you know someone who is? Do you want to get involved on the national level? Luminary Leaders applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are available at www.uua.org/luminary. There are no limits to the number of youth we can accept, so apply today! Luminary Leaders are invited to join task forces, focus groups and more, while receiving recognition for their achievements and connecting with other youth in leadership. All applications received before October 31st will be entered into a drawing for a scholarship to attend a UU event of their choice, up to $500.