Turning 30 - Thoughts from a YLA '05 Grad

posted by: Beth Erskine
Last Updated: 15 September 2017
Created: 02 August 2016


How have I navigated this unplanned path successfully? I credit my upbringing. My parents, church, sports, formal education, and organizations like the South Madison Youth Commission (SMYC) and 4-H all provided a safe, supportive and encouraging atmosphere to excel in anything, and sometimes too many things, that I put my mind to. However, one of the most unique opportunities that I genuinely believe helped to sling-shot me towards success was the Youth Leadership Academy. Church grew my faith; sports gave me a work ethic; school is where I gained knowledge; SMYC showed me community activism; 4-H offered true friendships; YLA is where I explored who Britt Cassiday truly was and could become.

While I was applying traditional assumptions of leadership in aspects of my life already with my friends and peers such as motivating others and setting goals, YLA was the first time something made me focus on myself. Seems counter-intuitive for a leadership program, but I learned and truly believe before you can lead in any fashion, you have to know yourself first! What makes me tick? What are my triggers? What are my motivators? What are my learning styles? What are my communication styles? While I exhibit these things every day and intuitively know them, without acknowledging them,  naming them, embracing them and truly understanding and working with them, I have no prayer in optimizing those traits for the greater good or much less a chance to lead others when I can’t lead myself.

                YLA unlocked a passion for knowing these things about myself. It gave me the gift of spending time reflecting on them and gave me the “ok” to learn about myself. It recognized a spark in me and gave me the tools to keep that flame alive and continue my own perpetual personal study, reflection and searching. I carried this mentality throughout college at Purdue, my various roles within John Deere, and am now applying it in my current MBA Program where I have a Leadership concentration.

30 isn’t old enough to make me lose my memory quite yet so here are some of the specifics I can recall from the Class of 2005:

  • - Trusting my teammates to pass me through one of the smallest holes in the spider-web obstacle at camp
  • - My first Myers Briggs assessment was ENTJ - Extrovert, Intuition, Thinking, and Judgement.
  • - The “Choose your Attitude” theme from the FISH Philosophy that has helped me as I have worked through my own personal stinky fish markets.
  • - How proud we were to pull off the first, extremely successful county-wide Battle of the Bands.
  • - One of my classmates was even my Junior Prom date

With these wonderful memories and the sense of purpose that YLA initiated in me, I honestly can’t wait to see how I continue to grow and learn, therefore exhibiting leadership for the next 30 years and beyond. Thanks YLA and the Class of 2005!


Grow. Serve. Lead.