Nathan Stahley was a team leader for the YVC program in Billings, Montana. He helped launch the program in 2008, and stayed with the program until 2012. We caught up with Nathan and asked him a few questions about how working with YVC youth shaped his life.
What is one of your favorite memories as a member of YVC?
One of my favorite memories was of a unique summer project we did. We had about ten youth volunteers participate, and the project was a week long. It was a video project where the students brainstormed a topic the first day of the week, and then we did everything from story boarding to filming and editing video. It was very interactive and engaging and students were able to select if they wanted to be behind the camera or in front of it. They chose to focus the short film on examining student perspective of what qualities make for a quality teacher. We held interviews of students to capture their voice. The last day of the project we did a small showing of our film to the parents of YVC students, and we also made plans for teachers to watch the short film that fall. It was a fantastic project for different personalities to engage in a creative way and learn the basics of film making. I really saw some bonding between the YVC members that participated, and they were all passionate about the work we were doing.
How did being involved with YVC affect your life/career path?
Being involved with YVC was a wonderful learning and growing experience for me. I was lucky enough to be part of starting the program in Billings, MT, through the United Way of Yellowstone County. From helping write the original grant that kick-started the program to growing the program, I felt lucky to be part of that process. After three, nearly four, years of being part of YVC as a leader I left United Way but stayed in the communities working at the local City-County Health Department. The following two years I continued to work directly with youth, focusing on tobacco prevention and suicide prevention efforts. I continue to work in at the health department on these issues. My positive experience working with YVC students really showed me the potential of engaging youth in positive ways. As I have continued to work in Public Health, I have become more familiar with not only how these positive relationships can impact future citizenship, but also how it can prevent chronic disease in adulthood. It is so important to have someone in a youth’s life that can help them navigate stressful situations in a healthy way, and I believe YVC is doing that through service projects led by positive adult role models.
What is one of your biggest life events from the past five years?
One of the most challenging, but rewarding, changes for me recently has been moving into a management role at the local health department. It has been rewarding to be able to coach and guide a team of five and the work they do to prevent youth tobacco use and address other population-level health concerns. It has been a real change for me, as I have been more removed from the ground level of the work than ever before. I have seen it as an opportunity to apply the different skills I have learned over the years to move programs forward, and I have enjoyed tackling problems with great a great staff. Being able to innovate to address new public health concerns like teen vaping is one of many challenging yet rewarding topics our team has had to address recently.
What’s a unique fact about you that people don’t know?
One thing that not everyone may know about me is that I really enjoy music, and when I am not working I am either making music or listening to it (live or on my headphones). I play percussion in a local band, and this last year we have written almost a dozen original songs and played gigs across the community. The creative process with a group of five has been such a valuable experience and form of self-care to help prevent “burnout” from the stresses of work. We are looking at recording some of tracks in 2019 and hope to establish ourselves in the small but growing music scene in Billings, MT.
Is there anything you want YVC alumni to know about you now?
Since I have stayed in Billings, MT, I have continued to support my local YVC when I have the time. In 2018 I joined the Youth Leadership Council for our local YVC to help foster continued youth leadership in our program. Volunteering in this way has been a great way to see the progress YVC has made after I left my formal role in 2012. I would encourage all alumni to find ways to continue your YVC journey no matter where you might be now.
Thank you to Nathan for taking the time to speak with us and share more about his life and how YVC has helped him find his path.