A MESSAGE FROM OUR HONOUREE
Hi, my name is Mary Stone and I was the 2019-2020 President of Jewish Youth Network. Wow! What an honor that truly was. I am currently in my first year of university at Ryerson. Starting university during a pandemic has definitely been a unique experience, however, I have already found myself making new friends and connections. Since starting university, I have joined Hillel Ryerson and I look forward to outsourcing my love, passion, and knowledge on Judaism with my new peers. Some of you may have seen me before on the JYN website or at one of the numerous events JYN runs, but for those of you who haven’t let me tell you a little bit about myself and my history with this amazing organization.
I have been a part of the JYN family since grade 9, and now I am a returning alumni. In the past four years I have taken two JYN credit courses, had the honor of being an Ambassador since my grade nine year, held a leadership position within JYN and a representative of JYN in their schools, and of course had the pleasure of being a peer mentor through the JYN connect program. With all of that being said, nothing compares to, or can override the feeling of accomplishment with the title of JYN President that I had the pleasure of experiencing in my senior year.
My journey within the organization and how I initially got involved is a story I will never forget, and I will be forever grateful for. My mom was the first to introduce me to the idea of joining, and proposed that I partake in a weekly class with a Rabbi to learn more about my religion. At first, I was hesitant, but quickly agreed after I learned more about the program from people who were already involved. As soon as I walked in that first day, I was warmly greeted and felt super-comfortable. I took an immediate interest in the topics being discussed and began to initiate many of my own – obviously tapping into a deep passion inside me that I was just discovering for the first time. I easily made personal connections with the staff at JYN and began to take on a leadership role as an ambassador, something I was absolutely ecstatic about.
Being an Ambassador was an extremely empowering experience, and has uncovered endless opportunities that have changed my life for the better. I always found comfort in knowing my voice was being heard and that my opinions truly mattered. With the support and opportunities produced by the JYN team, I am more than confident that I can achieve anything I put my mind to.
Throughout my time at JYN, I have always sought more ways to be involved and to help plan, spread the word, and volunteer at every event possible, due to my love for the organization. With the constant desire to grow as a person and community, I have also initiated my own events at JYN which took lots of time and planning, all with the constant support and encouragement of Rabbi Shmuli and my family.
JYN is not only about their academics, programs, or learning, they also take pride in the amazing people involved in the organization, as well as the everlasting relationships it fosters. I personally am forever grateful for the relationships I have made in my community through JYN, as well as the connections and networking that has helped guide me through these tough times whilst working towards my future. I am extremely grateful for these on-going relationships, and I look forward to continuing to grow my network for personal, professional, and community growth.
Being president in the year 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic was something no one could have ever prepared me for. The Covid-19 pandemic hit right in the middle of my senior year, which created a great deal of unforeseen obstacles. At first, this led to a very difficult time, as this was a new experience, and it was not a positive one. Between online classes, online tests and assignments, with a total lack of social interaction (including JYN) – 2020 was incredibly difficult.
With all of this going on it was difficult to plan events, have meetings and stay connected. However, as I have mentioned many times before, JYN is filled with some of the most amazing people I know, which helped several of my peers and myself get through this trying time. We all just want to help people and be there for our community, and believe me, if there was ever a time we were needed, it was now. I stayed focused on what was important and the thing I love to do most, help people. We began initiatives to give away $250 Sobey gift cards for those struggling financially so they were able to afford groceries, and continuously made posts informing people to reach out if they need anything so we could help alleviate the extreme discomfort everyone was going through. We ran programs such as JYN connect through zoom to ensure the children felt cared for, thought of, and had some sort of normality added into their schedule. We also ran a huge JYN tie-dye event where we gave away Covid-19/JYN themed t-shirts and tie-dye kits so everyone was able to join a zoom call and do this fun activity together. It was truly a heartwarming experience that I am so proud to have been a part of. It was so amazing to see our ambassador team working so hard together via zoom to plan, promote, and execute this event to ensure unity within the community, especially considering the current circumstances.
It is undeniable that I did not have the ‘typical’ JYN President experience, however, it is something I will never forget and forever look back fondly on. It is times like these that we must be resilient, united, and lean on one another more than ever. As a matter of fact, due to the Pandemic, I would argue that I was able to learn more, and experience more than any other president before me, due to the required adjustments, commitment and togetherness, which is what JYN is all about.
I am so grateful for this unique experience and the lessons it has taught me. Nothing in life comes easy, there will always be complications that arise or bumps in the road. However, it is not the instances that occur through your journey that matter most, it is how you grow and learn from these experiences. I most definitely learned some hard lessons about hard work and dedication earlier on in my life than I ever expected, however, it has helped me grow as an individual immensely. My perspective of the world around me has forever changed, and for that I am grateful to the JYN community.
I am forever thankful for this organization, as well as my family for always pushing me to be the best version of myself and supporting me through tough times like this. Being the President was truly one of the most spectacular accomplishments of my life so far, and I am forever grateful to have had that experience. I look forward to being JYN alumni now and continuing to expand the organization as well as get those involved who haven’t already. Jewish Youth Network has truly changed my life and I am so thankful that I get to take them along with me into the next steps of my future. Look out for what I do next.
Thank you for reading about my personal journey at JYN, and for the ongoing support from everybody within this community.. Please stay safe, and be well.
Mary Stone JYN President 2019-2020