The one word that would describe the events of 2013 is “transition.” It was a year where the first Lao Youth Leader President graduated high school and transitioned to college. It was a year where our program transitioned from quantity to quality. With these two events, LYL began its restructuring campaign, welcoming new faces and opportunities.

One of my favorite highlights of the year was congratulating Thida Vongvilay, LYL’s first President, on her successful two years of leadership. Under her leadership, LYL produced tremendous goodwill and impact for our community. She was able to spearhead the Get Out the Vote campaign, organizing a team of 25 youth volunteers to assist our community in advocating voting. She was able to create and build three community-based websites. Along with the LYL’s website, she was instrumental with the Lao Organization of Elgin and Wat Samaggi’s websites. In addition to the websites, she introduced the groups to social media, administering our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites. She was able to successfully build upon our annual programs and events, setting the standards and raising the bar for future leaders. We are greatly thankful for her leadership. She has served as the model of how LYL intends to grow and develop leaders. We wish her tremendous success in college. I am thankful she will become an instrumental part of LYL as we grow in the future. Thank you Thida.

As one leader successfully graduates, we are honored to welcome a new face, Kaylin Ramangkoun. What I like about Kaylin is her willingness to engage and achieve. I asked her to give a speech and lead several events including the Lao New Year Party and LYL Scholarship Ceremony. Both times, she went to work, developing the program with a central theme. I was impressed at her creativity. I didn’t ask her to set a theme for the events. She took the initiative to organize it within a theme, giving the event structure and flow. Once the pre-planning was set, she was able to host and present the program with ease and confidence. From these two programs, I could see her skill set was very strong in the area of communication and presentation. She was very comfortable talking to people and had a very warm personality. This was her leadership strength. Later in the year, I was able to see her analytical skill in play when she had to work with one of our partners and ask for funding. She was able to build a case for why we needed funds for our programs.

The transition from Thida to Kaylin taught us that we are able to serve our youth and help them develop their leadership skills. We have been focused on working closer with a select number of youth. This would provide more time and resources for the youth’s development. In the past, we focused on helping the masses. We soon found it was more challenging and that we are not at the capacity to make the impact we desired. Now, we are able to work closer with individual needs and measure the impact and growth. The reality is that only a small percentage of the youth are committed on working hard to develop their leadership. We are focused on helping the youth that aspire to learn and grow.

I am most proud of how we transitioned this year in terms of youth leader and program growth. Other areas of am proud of include the LYL Scholarship Ceremony. We were able to award 13 students scholarships to help them with their college expenses. I would like to thank Howard Miller for his generosity for underwriting our scholarship for the past three years. We have seen some great impact from our scholarships. Several of the past recipients have written us to thank us for our scholarships. Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Poe Phetthongsy, Wat Samaggi, and the Committee for the 1st Lao Students High School Reunion for their contributions and creating more scholarships to our youth. We were able to present an additionally $1,800 in scholarship awards because of them.

For 2014, LYL will continue to grow and transition to better serve our youth and community. We have redrafted our charter with a goal of achieving our non-profit designation. It is our goal to start the LYL programs in more communities outside of Elgin, IL. There is a demand for leadership development and it is our goals to serve.

In closing, I would like to continue to thank the many supporters that have been with us from day number one. We have continued to achieve and help our youth reach new heights. It is great to share it with our supporters. Without them, we would not be able to produce and serve at this level. As we continue to grow, I know we will need more help and resources. I hope that we are blessed with an abundance of support. It will be a lot of hard work ahead of us. We look forward to sharing more success. Please feel free to communicate with us any time.

Alan Thavisouk – Director, Lao Youth Leaders