By Rachel Collman, NFTY-MAR Alumna
It’s difficult to put into words the impact of my experience with NFTY and DRTY. I could show you thousands of pictures of the best friends I made or the amazing youth-led events I attended across the country. At the end of my NFTY career, I shared those pictures and stories to anyone who would listen. At the time, I reminisced about my closest friendships and favorite songs, not recognizing what I had really learned until much later.
Now, two years later, I am beginning to understand all that I learned during my time with NFTY. I began as the Social Action Vice President of DRTY at Judea Reform. When the students who started DRTY graduated, I became a prominent leader within DRTY. Despite what a young high school student would think, it wasn’t terrifying to take on a leadership role. The work wasn’t easy but the community created for DRTY was inviting and incredibly supportive. There was always an adult ready to listen to what we were doing, always a more experienced congregant ready to lend their skills to help, and always younger congregants looking up to us, hoping one day they could be a DRTYite too.
During my junior year, I ran for Regional Board of NFTY-MAR, a region spanning across the East Coast from North Carolina to Maryland and Delaware. I found my calling as the SAVP of DRTY, a calling that told me I should help others. Once I was elected NFTY-MAR SAVP, I had the potential to create real change so one of my primary motivations was to get students involved in social action. Becoming a regional leader didn’t cause me to abandon my roots in DRTY; it made me work harder to bring Judea Reform students to MAR events.
Throughout my high school career, I evolved from a DRTY member, leading dozens, to a regional leader, leading hundreds in songs, cheers, and programs. And this still hasn’t stopped. I am now a junior at UNC Asheville, starting my third year in Student Government and Hillel. I founded an organization, Girls’ Achievement Through Education (GATE), which mentors young girls in our community about the importance of succeeding through education, with a healthy body image and without the effects of negative media. We promote media literacy education on our campus and in Asheville through events and speakers.
The skills I use to lead in my organizations at UNCA, I credit to learning through NFTY. Leadership, peer mentoring, event planning, program development, public speaking, volunteer management, are a few of the important skills I learned through creating and executing events for DRTY and NFTY-MAR. I even adapted the NFTY program format to teach my GATE volunteers how to write our mentoring programs.
Whenever I return home and see parents of children I taught at religious school, if they’re old enough, I ask, “Have they started DRTY? Have they been to MAJYK yet?” I wouldn’t want any child of Judea Reform to go through obstacles of high school without NFTY and DRTY there to support them. I want every child of Judea Reform to benefit as much as I have from opportunities provided by DRTY. It’s not just a place to be social or to learn to be a leader, it’s a home you can return to and a safety net you can fall into, knowing there are others who understand you.