By Gigi Snellback Our lives are shaped by the people we choose to surround ourselves with. Luckily, I have made countless close friendships with people I never would have imagined, thanks to CROYA (Committee Representing Our Young Adults).
There’s a certain stigma in branching out to people who aren’t in the same circle as you, but CROYA is all about breaking down these barriers. High schoolers from all grades, and all kinds of friends, come together and make close connections with one another. Some of these connections have been the most genuine and trusting relationships of my life.
Gigi Snellback always knows she has someone to turn to at CROYA.
I’ve definitely heard kids say they feel intimidated to go to CROYA -- which is housed at the Lake Forest Recreation Center -- and that it seems like a tight-knit, exclusive group. I honestly felt the same until the second I went to a meeting. People at CROYA are actually overjoyed with any new faces, and they welcome you with such genuineness.
“CROYA has always been a place where any kid, no matter their background, can be themselves," senior Ben Winebrenner said. "Whether they have problems at home, or just want to hang out, CROYA is a safe haven for all youth in Lake Forest. For me, I’ve always felt myself at CROYA, and the staff has been especially impactful to my development as a young man over the past six years.”
Like me, Claire Yehle feels that CROYA is a “second family.”
“I know the second I walk through those doors, I will be instantly happy and everyone will accept me for who I am. I wouldn’t have the friends I have if it wasn’t for CROYA,” Yehle said.
High school can be up and down sometimes, but having somewhere I can go to connect with others has really carried me through. It’s hard to have problems with friends, especially at Lake Forest High School. Everyone has had moments where they feel alone, and like there’s nobody to turn to.
For me, low moments were made so much easier by not only the kids at CROYA, but also the staff. They are constantly reminding me that I don’t have to struggle alone. Not only does the staff keep everyone safe and in check, it’s also evident that they genuinely care about each kid. I always know I have someone to turn to, and they really do have the best advice possible.
“The staff creates such an amazing positive and accepting environment for everyone who walks through the doors of CROYA. They really make us feel like a family, and reassure you that you never have to go through the world alone,” sophomore Georgia Mannarino said.
Leaving CROYA is going to be one of the hardest goodbyes. But I think the impact the organization has had on us will stick with us forever. Not only the memories, but the friendships will always be kept close to the heart.
It’s comforting to know the future of CROYA is in such great hands. All of the grades below us consist of such unique and kind-hearted kids, and I am so excited to see them thrive over the next few years. Gigi Snellback is a senior at Lake Forest High School. This story was originally published in the Forest Scout newspaper.