Editor’s Note: As the end of the year approaches, so does the end of USY career’s of members of the class of 2019. The seniors, looking back on their past 4 (or 7, or more) years in USY, have gained many valuable lessons from throughout their time in USY. Read HaNegev USYer Alissa Chernin’s reflection on the lessons she learned over the past four years as a USYer.
When thinking about the past four years of USY, it’s hard to find words to describe my experience. Before my ninth grade year, I was skeptical about joining due to the size of my chapter and not having many friends in it. I was asked to be my chapter’s Israel Affairs Vice President, and boy, am I glad that I said yes. If I had not told my chapter presidents yes, I do not think I would have had the same experience in USY. The life lessons that I learned in this organization are ones that cannot be learned anywhere else. The lifelong friends that you make in USY cannot be found anywhere else.
Throughout high school, I had a lot of trouble with friends. I would go through the same three phases over and over again: find a great group of people, become close with them, and then get dropped for seemingly no reason. I am so grateful to have found the lifelong friends in USY that I did from ALL over the country! I would not have been able make it through high school if it weren’t for the friends (Hi Jenna, Alex, Gabe, Brandon, Elana, Becky, Zelkowitz twins, Jordana, Becca, the Loung Yeaders, and many more) that USY gave me. When my region (HaNegev) experienced the loss of the Weiss family, I knew that I had friends in other regions who were there to comfort me and be there for me whenever I needed them most. The numerous inside jokes, memories, laughs, and times that we have all cried on each others shoulders are irreplaceable.
Everywhere you look in USY there are life lessons to be learned. These life lessons can not be learned anywhere else and that’s what makes them so special. The lessons I have learned from monthly regional Leadership Training Initiatives, limmudim at conventions, and speakers at International Convention are ones that I apply to everyday life whether it be in school or helping someone outside of USY with something that they are currently going through. People always ask me where I learned those lessons and I always proudly say, “oh, I learned it at a USY convention this weekend.” They are always amazed at the lessons that one can learn just from an hour video call or a discussion from a weekend convention for high school students.
I was recently at my final USY convention, and it seemed as if every five minutes I would cry. I kept finding myself thinking, “how can I be leaving this AMAZING organization and these AMAZING people? I can’t possibly be a graduating senior already.” It feels like just yesterday I was sitting at the dais as a freshman, but there I was, getting ready to read my senior quote. When I wrote my final goodbye to the HaNegev group chat and left, it felt as if my safety net was taken out from under me. Although the “physical” safety net is no longer there, I know that I can always go to my USY friends – no, my USY family – whenever I need to; and, I know that they are all only a phone call away. If it were not for USY, I truly do not think that I would be the person that I am today, and for that, I am forever grateful.