The Journeys of our YES Participants

The outcomes our participants and leaders have experienced are what we hope for every young person coming through our program: the opportunity to embrace one’s own calling to serve in the unique way for which God designed them, and the support to do so within a loving community.

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Peter Awabdeh

City: Fairfax, VA

Age of first YES experience: 15

First YES experience: Fall 2018 YES Trip in Washington, DC

YES Program Journey:

I started attending YES trips in the Fall of 2018 as a Sophomore in high school. In Fall 2019, I became a YES Youth Ambassador and started attending the YES Series, the servant leadership conference, and helped organize the D.C. YES trip. Currently, I’m a trip leader and am excited to get more involved in leading YES trips!

How YES shaped Peter's perspective on serving others:

Service isn’t simply a task, but rather a way of life of assisting and caring for others in the world. Service is about seeing people, regardless of who they are, as a valued community member and someone deserving the love of Christ. YES taught me that service is an act of continued humility and the smallest acts of kindness and upliftment of others bring the Kingdom of God on Earth.

How YES influenced Peter's life overall:

The YES community truly assisted me with interacting with those around me in a more compassionate and genuine way. By being able to hold meaningful conversations through the YES series and trips, I learn to apply that vulnerability and servitude with those around me to best strengthen relationships and create new ones.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

18, I am currently an undergraduate freshman at the College of William & Mary studying International Relations and Economics. I hope to explore opportunities for research in the Middle East during college.
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Anna Spencer

City: Wichita, Kansas

Age of first YES experience: 15

First YES experience: Fall 2014 YES Trip in Wichita, Kansas

YES Program Journey:

Starting in 2014, I attended several YES trips in high school and college. In Fall 2019, I became an intern and have worked off and on for YES since then! In December 2019, I became a trip leader and have led several of the YES Series groups. I am currently a member of YES staff.

How YES shaped Anna's perspective on serving others:

My YES involvement has taught me how service is a way of life, not only a designated time for volunteer projects. I have learned the difference in mindset between fixing vs. helping vs. serving a person. Here is an article explaining this perspective. I am thankful for a community that has shown me true service is bringing the kingdom of God to the present moment!

How YES influenced Anna's life overall:

This community has allowed me space to be vulnerable to work towards knowing and trusting myself more. I am constantly inspired by the unconditional love and servant-heartedness present in YES!

Current age and school/work pursuits:

23. I am currently working for a pediatric neurology clinic before starting Physician Assistant school May 2022.

Evan Roussey

City: Denton, TX

Age of first YES experience: 19

First YES experience: Spring 2020 YES College Day in Dallas 

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YES Program Journey:

My first YES experience was a day trip in Dallas. I participated in the online Servant Leadership Conference in summer 2020 and since then have been involved in many online programs like Roadmap trips and YES series. I recently became a YES leader and helped to co-lead a trip in March 2022.

How YES shaped Evan's perspective on serving others:

YES taught me that service goes beyond food drives, community projects, and fundraisers. Service is walking side by side through life with people and lifting them up, whether this means providing for basic needs, being a listening ear, or offering friendship and encouragement. Service extends into all the richness of life and is an answer to God’s continual call for us to all be one.

How YES influenced Evan's life overall:

YES helped turn my life around in 2020. Before the Dallas trip, I was lonely, despondent, and searching for purpose. The Dallas trip helped call me back to the life of active courage and service that God desires from us, which only strengthened after I attended the SLC. YES also spurred my involvement in OCF. My growing connections with both organizations have provided me constant encouragement and have helped me discern a call to the ministry. I will be a fervent supporter of YES for life.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

I am 21 years old and about to graduate from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and a minor in Spanish. I recently committed to join Orthodox Volunteer Corps, the Assembly of Bishops’ new agency for young adults. Starting in September I will be participating in OVC’s year of service, growth, and faith; after that, I will wait on the Lord and see where I’m going next!
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Ellie Fall

City: St. Paul, Minnesota

Age of first YES experience: 17

First YES experience: A “Call to Action” Zoom call in March 2020

YES Program Journey:

In March 2020, what would have been my first YES trip was canceled due to the pandemic, but thankfully, I was redirected to the wonderful world that is online YES! Throughout Spring 2020 and on, I attended Tuesday night zoom calls and online trips. I became a leader in Fall 2021 and have led small groups for the series calls, as well as was a leader on the (in-person!!) YES Milwaukee trip this Spring. I also currently have the blessing of being one of the Spring 2022 interns!

How YES shaped Ellie's perspective on serving others:

YES taught me that service goes beyond food drives, community projects, and fundraisers. Service is walking side by side through life with people and lifting them up, whether this means providing for basic needs, being a listening ear, or offering friendship and encouragement. Service extends into all the richness of life and is an answer to God’s continual call for us to all be one.

How YES influenced Ellie's life overall:

The beautiful people of YES have shown me what it means to bring unconditional love and the readiness to serve into every corner of my life. I have been nurtured and stretched and encouraged and loved all at once by this community, and because of this, I’ve been able to grow into a truer version of myself. I’ve also found deep inspiration from experiences of breaking down barriers and making deep connections with new fellow humans on YES trips - this is what joy is! YES has had such a big impact on my life and I am eternally grateful!!

Current age and school/work pursuits:

19. I’m currently in my second year of college at St. Catherine University working on my undergrad in Theology!

Kinda Callas

City: Oakton, VA

Age of first YES experience: 17

First YES experience: Washington DC in 2016

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YES Program Journey:

In 2016, I attended my first YES trip. I had the most beautiful time and fell in love with YES and its mission. I attended leadership trip in Detroit and then became a YES leader in 2019! I joined the YES staff in 2020 and am so excited to always have YES in my life.

How YES shaped Kinda's perspective on serving others:

By attending different YES trips I have seen that service is done in different ways. It does not always have to be going to a soup kitchen. It can be bringing extra snacks when you go into the city to pass out to anyone that needs it or starting a conversation with someone you meet on the street! I have met so many beautiful people and heard stories from them on YES trips and now in my everyday life just by leaving my comfort zone, looking up, and chatting with them. YES is really a way of life!

How YES influenced Kinda's life overall:

After my first YES trip I felt a switch in me change, the leaders on my first trip said very powerful and beautiful things to us that I still carry with my in my everyday life. I really do mean that YES changed my life. I have a more positive outlook on life and have met the most wonderful people along the way. I love love love YES and our community.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

I am twenty-two and in my senior year of college studying Economics and Global Systems.
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Lucas Ajalat

City: Los Angeles, California

Age of first YES experience: 12

First YES experience: Skid row/Los Angeles, CA, January 2014

YES Program Journey:

I went on my first YES trip in 2014, a month before my 13th birthday. As is the case with almost every trip participant, I loved it and couldn’t wait for more! Since then, I have attended two servant leadership conferences, a number of the YES Series, and so many more trips. In 2019, I became a YES Leader and have had the opportunity to lead trips since then! I’m so grateful to be a part of this program, and can’t wait to go on more trips in-person!

How YES shaped Lucas' perspective on serving others:

YES has taught me so much about myself and others. It has shown me that service is not just something we are called to do in designated places and times, but throughout the course of our entire lives. It has taught me that loving others the way Christ did is unconditional, and that need alone is a poor man’s worthiness. In many ways, those I’ve interacted with on YES trips have shown me the poverty in my own life, and how Christ’s love is the only thing to defeat it.

How YES influenced Lucas' life overall:

I come home from each YES trip completely rejuvenated in my attitude toward service, but its effect has been so much more than the immediate period after a trip. YES has shown me that to become a servant, leader, brother, son, and friend, I first need to become a child of God. It is such a continual journey, and I’ve had so many ups and downs trying to carry out the lessons that YES has taught me. However, the program has given me so many crucial tools for this growth. There have been so many times that I have thought back to a situation I experienced in YES, or an idea someone has brought up in a debrief.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

I am currently 21 years old and studying philosophy at UCLA. I hope to attend law school in two years, after taking a gap year.

Peyton Powers

City: Providence, Rhode Island

Age of first YES experience: 13

First YES experience: 2009 YES Trip in Kansas City

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YES Program Journey:

I am grateful to have spent several weekends with YES, as both a participant and trip leader. YES has introduced me to communities all over the country: Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia, just to name a few! I joined the Ministry Team last year and love sharing my time with an organization that has prompted significant spiritual and personal growth in my own life.

How YES shaped Peyton's perspective on serving others:

Through YES, I came to understand that we are all made in Christ's image. Consequently, we are all worthy of dignity, grace, and love. YES gave me the skills to build and strengthen communities wherever I am, with prayer, compassion, and listening as my trusty tools.

How YES influenced Peyton's life overall:

YES transformed my life. First, YES reminded me that we can always witness the Kingdom on earth through community with and service to our neighbors. Moreover, through indispensable leadership opportunities, YES helped me recognize a passion for youth ministry. I've since committed myself to regularly working with kids, as both a Sunday School teacher in my local parish and through my career in education.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

I'm now 25, and it's wild to realize that YES has been a major force for almost half of my life. Currently, I work as a policy-maker at the Rhode Island Department of Education. Next fall, I'll begin my Ph.D. in Education Policy, researching the complex relationships between teacher quality and equitable student achievement. I'm confident that YES will continue to be a part of my story.
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Catie Golitzin DeCarlo

City: Ashley, PA

Age of first YES experience: 17

First YES experience: June 2010 YES trip in San Francisco

YES Program Journey:

I attended two YES trips before becoming a YES intern and then a leader. Throughout college and afterwards I stayed connected to YES. A few years ago, I joined the ministry team and am now part-time staff.

How YES shaped Catie's perspective on serving others:

Especially over the past two years, YES's message of unity, unconditional love, and breaking down barriers has helped me navigate this time in space when judgment and division are poisoning our society and relationships. From learning to connect with those who seem to be visibly much different from me, I'm now learning to love those whose inner world is much different from my own.

How YES influenced Catie's life overall:

YES has given me great hope for what it means to be Orthodox Christian. I went through a long phase where my faith made me fearful of the "outside world," but my faith now helps me love others unconditionally and fearlessly.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

At 28 years old, I am looking forward to moving back to California, and having my husband's and my first baby this summer. I love working with YES, and I'm keeping my eyes open for what the future might hold!

Paul Rodriguez-Anter

City: Irvine, CA

Age of first YES experience: 12

First YES experience: January 2012 in Los Angeles, CA

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YES Program Journey:

After my first YES experience, I fell in love with a new definition of serving others from a very young age. This inspired me to continue participating on the annual LA trip. In 2015, I experienced a trip in Boston and, in 2016, San Francisco. I learned what a world party was and loved being a part of them. In 2018, I was trained to be a leader myself, which was a very formative experience for my college years. I’ve led many trips now and am enjoying being a YES series leader since COVID hit.

How YES shaped Paul's perspective on serving others:

YES has made a huge impact on my perspective of service. I find myself approaching different things in my life, questioning whether I am “helping” “fixing” or “serving.” It’s a natural instinct for me to check myself because of how deeply engrained in me the distinction between the meaning of these words are for me. I have learned unconditional love from others through YES which has greatly shaped how I serve people in my local community, family, and friends.

How YES influenced Paul's life overall:

YES reminds us that Christ lives within every soul on this earth. What a blessing to be able to serve Christ in such an eye-opening way from such a young age. YES has not only shaped my perspectives, but also it has influenced my ability to be independent, make sound decisions, think compassionately, and develop leadership skills. I’ve seen myself, my peers, and others grow so much from the YES experience, and I rave about it to most everyone.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

22, studying international relations and religion.
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Pano Constantine

City: NYC, NY

Age of first YES experience: 16

First YES experience: Cleveland YES Trip, 2010

YES Program Journey:

My journey began in 2010 as a trip participant. A year later I went on a second trip in Pittsburgh before attending the first YES leadership training that summer. I was a student trip leader for a few years before eventually becoming a trip leader. I joined the ministry team in 2018 when it was started to help improve upon the trip experience and served there until the end of 2021. I joined the board this year and look forward to continuing my service to the organization.

How YES shaped Pano's perspective on serving others:

YES transformed the intention behind service in my mind. Growing up, the idea of serving others was always perceived as good but the conceptual reasons were unformed. YES helped define the purpose of serving others and how to do that. For me, it is important to serve others as an honor to their sacred personhood and the likeness of what we represent. It only takes one relationship to change a person's life - any person's. Serving others is a way of adding love and positivity into the world.

How YES influenced Pano's life overall:

YES helped define the purpose of service and gave me a practical roadmap to live out my faith. Even more importantly, it taught me how accessible it is to commit yourself to a cause and connect it to what I am passionate about. As life has progressed and my involvement with YES has, I have continued to find ways to match my abilities to the many facets of service that YES allows access to.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

I'm currently 27 years old living just outside NYC. I work as the Director of my company's health & benefits advisory practice assisting companies place and grow their benefits programs. I am energized by finding ways to increase the quality and decrease the cost of health care for my clients.

Laila Tokatli

City: Worcester, Massachusetts

Age of first YES experience: 14 years old

First YES experience: Providence, RI

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YES Program Journey:

I started off as a YES participant in middle school and high school. I soon realized I wanted and needed to be more involved in the YES ministry. I then became a YES ambassador, leading me to become a YES leader. I participated in the first YES leadership training in Los Angeles, CA and I helped lead the YES leadership training in Pittsburgh, PA. This then lead me to work for YES while in college, as I helped to plan trips all across the country. I then helped establish the Ministry Team. I became the team leader and now continue to serve as a member of the group.

How YES shaped Laila's perspective on serving others:

Being a part of the YES ministry has opened my eyes to a world of continual service. It has changed my perspective and has allowed me to realize that even in the everyday, I can serve those around me with an open heart.

How YES influenced Laila's life overall:

YES has completely changed my outlook in all aspects of life. It has helped me realize my full potential and that I can always serve those in need both at home, work and in the community.

Current age and school/work pursuits:

27 years old. I currently work as a Physical Therapist in an Inpatient Rehab Unit with a specialty in neurology.
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Virginia Farley

City: Denver, CO

Age of first YES experience: 13

First YES experience: Denver 2008

YES Program Journey:

I have been involved with YES since I was 13 years old when I went on my first trip. Since then, I have spent many years leading trips, assisting in leadership trainings for new leaders, working for YES as a part-time trip planner, and I am currently on the YES ministry team.

How YES shaped Virginia's perspective on serving others:

Being involved with YES showed me that there is not only one way to serve. Serving comes not from what you expect or want to give, but rather focuses on what the other person needs or wants. For some that is building a house, for others it's a conversation and a friendly smile. The most important aspect of service is valuing the other person, approaching the situation with love, patience and an open heart and mind.

How YES influenced Virginia's life overall:

My time within YES has taught me the importance of community, vulnerability and valuing every human we meet. YES has always been a safe, beautiful community that has loved me unconditionally and encouraged me to grow!

Current age and school/work pursuits:

I am 27 years old and have lived in Guatemala for the past several years. Working online as a writing tutor has allowed me to travel and connect with different cultures and communities. Looking forward, I hope to use my psychology degree in a more hands-on way to continue serving whatever community I settle in.

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