Passing the Torch

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Dear AYF Community,

It has been my honor to serve as president for the American Youth Foundation and I write to share that after 35 years, as a participant, leader, and president, I have decided that it is time for me to pass the torch of leadership for this great organization. With the start of the new calendar year, I will be leaving my role as an employee of the AYF, but my enthusiasm for championing its mission and impact will not diminish.

Anna Kay Vorsteg and Liz Marshall, October 2023.

I have the opportunity to share some outstanding news for the AYF, that, for me, makes my transition a cause for celebration. Beginning January 1, the Board of Directors has named Liz Marshall as the next president of the AYF. There are many good things in the works, and there is no one more ready or capable of leading us forward than Liz and our colleagues on the full-time team.

Tending to the mission of the American Youth Foundation has been my life’s work. I began as an eager college student working summers in the camps and then joined the full-time team in my early twenties. I have worked alongside many of you and have benefited from amazing role models in the form of board members, alumni, supervisors, professional peers, passionate young staff, and children – so many glorious children, showing me what it means to move as one’s best self. The AYF grew with me through the decades as I worked hard to shape and evolve it as a values-driven organization, offering youth and adults empowering programs that inspired their best. I am deeply grateful to have served the mission so long and am thankful for all this loving, learning community has gifted my family and me.

As I explore the question of “what next” for me, I take immense comfort in knowing I can and will stay involved in this work of the AYF in my new capacity as a supporting alum. I have every intention of maintaining a connection to this community and the values we share, and pledge to do all I can to fuel this organization I love, as it enters an exciting and necessary next chapter. I will look forward to seeing many of you at reunions and centennial events.

Just as our graduating class at the National Leadership Conference, and our Odyssey, Voyageur, and Wayfinder campers find passing the torch and leaving at the completion of their program to be emotionally difficult, so too do I. It is because a long challenging and beautiful journey is coming to a close, and those you journeyed with will not stand beside you in the same capacity as you move forward. And so, I remind myself as I remind those participants, I am ready. The plan was never that we would all stay at Miniwanca or Merrowvista forever, but that we would be fully present for a time and then take the lessons of our camps forward into new circles and new challenges, bringing new versions of our best forward.

Thank you AYF, for kindling my spirit all these many years. With full heart, I bow forward and pass this sacred torch to Liz, singing the words sung in closing ceremonies by AYF graduates who stand tall, ready to unleash their best by taking their light out and into other communities.

And we who would founders be,
Live up to the best we are,
Receive from this light our strength,
And carry the truth afar.
Founders follow, follow the gleam,
Standards of worth, o’er all the earth,
Follow, follow, follow the gleam,
‘Til the darkness shall be no more.

It is now my time to boldly follow the gleam.

Ever grateful! Ever inspired!
Anna Kay