MYLC Goes Digital

How the organization continues their efforts online during the pandemic


Courtesy of Emma Valerio

MYLC member Emma Valerio reads with a student online.

Sofia Sarak, Staff Writer

The Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council (MYLC) of Stamford High is often recognized for its work of raising public awareness for societal issues – members are typically stationed on the sixth floor, handing out information sheets and participating in projects. With the recent closing of schools, however, their work in the community has been altered to be done remotely from home.

Throughout the typical school year, MYLC partners with agencies throughout the city to complete the volunteer aspect of the organization. The agencies connect MYLC to young children in the community, with whom members play or do crafts multiple times a year. MYLC did not want to cease their interaction with these children despite stay-home advisories, so members developed a new way to interact with them: video-call reading sessions.

Four days a week, seven Stamford High MYLC members actively participate in the project, reading books or playing music to the kids. Each session also has a staff member from the respective agency to help administer the session.

MYLC’s organizer, Bob Kocienda, explained that MYLC had reached out to these agencies with their idea, and two of the three that they regularly work with wanted to collaborate. The agencies then reached out to the kids (grades kindergarten to three) and their parents, who chose whether or when they would like to sign up to participate.

In the start, the project was specific to reading books. But as time went on, MYLC expanded the mission of the sessions, adding poetry, and the children reading themselves, to the mix. Not long after, live music was incorporated.

Musically talented members play instruments or sing for the children on the calls. Alexandra Wynne, a member of the orchestra at Stamford High, explained that the kids welcomed the addition.

“The first time I played my violin for them, a lot of [the children] asked questions and were really interested,” she said. “[It] was so cool to me that I got to expose them to it.”

And the children enjoy it as well. Rakshita Ramakrishna, another MYLC member, explained that “[reading to them] is such a simple thing that really helps them relax and puts a smile on their faces.” She also said that the kids are very engaged in the sessions, at times asking questions or to see a picture in a picture book again. 

Emma Valerio, who has also contributed her musical talents to the project, explained the sense of gratification she gets from it.

“The most rewarding part is definitely them laughing or responding to the reading or music during our video calls,” she said.

MYLC’s service acts as an apt example of the way people in the community have come together to make the current situation a more positive one. Wynne said it best herself: “it’s nice to bring a smile to people’s faces during these weird times.”