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Meet David Lee, the youth voice for YSS

David Lee uses his younger perspective to make his voice heard when he attends meetings at YSS Headquarters in Ames.

Only a senior at Ames High School, David is the youth representative on YSS’s Corporate Board of Directors. The 20-member board brings together many different perspectives, ideas, and opinions to provide oversight for Iowa’s largest youth-serving nonprofit organization. In his role, David ensures his generation is at the forefront of decisions being made.

Andrew Allen, President and CEO of YSS, is the reason David first got involved in the YSS mission.

“There was a career-oriented program at school,” David says. “One day, we were discussing nonprofit organizations when Andrew came in and joined the conversation. He apparently liked my answers because he later asked me, ‘How do you feel about being on the board for YSS?’”

Andrew isn’t the only one who recognized David’s passion for activism. Throughout his sophomore and junior years of high school, David has been a part of many organizations and clubs that promote equity and inclusion.

However, David wanted to do more.

“I was thinking of other ways I could contribute to YSS as a board member, and I came up with the idea to start a fundraiser for my upcoming triathlon,” he says.

In June, David will compete in a half Ironman triathlon, which includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run. He has been training for the event for months—even joining the Ames High School swim team and biking to school in the winter.

He is fundraising to support YSS’s Rosedale Shelter, which offers a safe place for runaway and homeless youth in Ames. David has a created a GoFundMe page, where he explains that half the proceeds will be used to purchase necessities, including clothing, food, and hygiene items. The remaining dollars will be used in a fund to support the kids’ dreams.

“I am a dreamer, a storyteller, and a believer in the idea that every stranger is a friend you just haven’t met yet,” David wrote in his GoFundMe page. “I know that love can change the world and that a dream is a vision you see that is beyond your line of sight.”

Additionally, David is working to collect anonymous stories from Rosedale youth and alumni about their experiences with homelessness or unstable family situations that led them to seek help from YSS.

He aims to shed light on disadvantages outside of their control, which will help correct misconceptions about youth involved in shelters, foster care, treatment, and the criminal justice system.

“They are just like us, and we have more in common than we are different,” David explains. “We all have stories to tell, and we all need people to love and be loved by.”

David says that being in the room with adults is how he creates change. He wants the youth of his generation to be acknowledged in boardroom discussions.

“We have the power to create change not only at the organizational level, but also as individuals,” David explains. “We can develop solutions and ideas on how to prepare and help these kids.”

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