The Worcester Youth Leadership Institute (WYLI), now in its eighth year as a program, graduated 24 local students on Friday in a ceremony held at Worcester’s City Hall. 

The program, which is aimed at providing 15- to 20-year-old students with opportunities to connect with the business world around them, was completed over the course of six weeks throughout the summer. 

A partnership of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, MassHire Central Region Workforce Board, the United Way of Central Massachusetts, Worcester Community Action Council (WCAC), and the City of Worcester’s Youth Opportunities Office; the WYLI exposes these future leaders to a variety of businesses, Worcester landmarks, and mentors during the summer. 

During the graduation celebration, Worcester Chamber President and CEO Timothy P. Murray discussed why programming like this is important now more than ever.

As the community faces changes, Mr. Murray says it’s crucial that businesses have leaders who are ready to meet those changes, which is why educating our youth now, through programs like WYLI, is critical for developing the next generation of leaders.

The City of Worcester’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services Dr. Mattie Castiel addressed the youth in the room, saying, “A key component in being an effective leader is recognizing what needs to change, what needs to be abolished, and whose voices should be amplified.” 

Dr. Castiel reflected on her own journey to becoming a leader, discussing the challenges she faced growing up in Cuba and then migrating to the United States. She said, “I didn’t see myself as someone who could even be a leader […]. The only people who seemed to be represented or proclaimed as leaders were those who held power and influence.” 

Dr. Castiel credits her own dedication to her dreams of becoming a doctor and having the support of a few people in her corner as being what allowed her to overcome the many challenges and doubts she was presented with.

Commending the youth for their involvement in the program, Dr. Castiel encouraged the graduates to, “Follow your dreams and bring your passion to whatever you do and encourage others to do the same. […] Whatever you decide to do, if you choose it because it brings you joy and you are passionate, I guarantee you it will never just be a job. It will be your life’s work; you will never get tired or have doubts.”

WYLI graduate shakes hands in congratulations with WRCC President and CEO Tim Murray.
Photo by Rayana Petrone

The program’s coordinator, Walter Jovel, presented the graduates with a certificate of completion and said that working with this WYLI Class of 2021 was a “true pleasure.” Mr. Jovel said he’s proud of the group for coming together every week to get to know the city and its leaders, but most importantly, each other.

WYLI is sponsored by Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU), GFI Partners, Reliant Medical Group, and UniBank,

Rayana Petrone is a Lasell University intern with the Worcester Chamber.