Anna Pohoryles is the new Associate Regional Director at BBYO in Howard County, overseeing the HoCo and DC chapters of BBYO. We spoke with her about her role and the impact BBYO has on Howard County teens.
Describe your role at BBYO?
BBYO teens meet about once a week to plan weekend programs, whether recreational programs like flag football, Jewish heritage programming, social action programming, brother/sisterhood events, or leadership programs. The teens in each chapter get to decide what appeals to them most. I empower the teens to make their own decisions while providing any guidance they may need. I go over program outlines with the teens, check that they have enough resources to run the programs, and ensure that what they are doing is safe and cost-effective. Other than that, what they do is up to them, and they are free to take on different roles, whether planning programs or leading the BBYO board.
In this way, BBYO allows teens to build leaderships skills. The teens feel they have ownership over what they do and can choose how they want their experience to be.
Your personal history with BBYO?
I spent three years in BBYO’s Montgomery County chapter when I was in high school. I served on the chapter board a few times, had a few leadership positions, attended conventions, and participated in summer programs. Participating in BBYO was definitely something that I enjoyed each week, and my experience at BBYO prompted me to look for different leadership opportunities when I got to college. There, I went on to direct a musical, join Greek life, and become president of my sorority. This opportunity to serve as Associate Regional Director is a good way for me to circle back to that important time of my life and help other teens.
How does BBYO empower teens?
I think that on the most basic level, it allows teens to meet and connect with other Jewish teens. BBYO also gives them a place to explore their interests, develop leadership skills that they can take with them to college, and find something they are passionate about pursuing. And BBYO helps teens build a strong connection to their Jewish heritage, even past bar or bat mitzvah age. There are a lot of options for the teens to explore in one setting, and the experience is very customizable for each one, depending on what works best for him or her.
What inspires your work?
I feel like I got a lot out of my time in BBYO—it shaped who I was and what I wanted to do, and it feels like a natural progression for me to give back to that same community and help a new generation of teen leaders.
I think that in this role specifically, it’s cool for me to see that while the organization has changed in a lot of ways since I was in BBYO, what the teens are doing is still similar to what I did in high school. It’s not so much about me wanting to relive my time in BBYO as it is knowing that the staff has a unique opportunity to influence these teens and help them decide what they want to do in college and beyond. It’s awesome to be part of that and help the teens grow.
Your most important goal in this role?
My goal is to have a positive impact on the teens, to have them know I’m there for them as a resource, not just as a job but because I really want to be there. I want to build their confidence to be successful leaders in BBYO and beyond.
I am also there to be a resource for teens and their parents—I’m always happy to go out to coffee with parents, hear what their experiences are like, and ensure that both the teen and parent are getting what they want out of the experience—that the parent is just as satisfied as the teens.
Is there a particular Jewish value that inspires you at your work?
Tikkun olam. Knowing that you are working with these teens who have all this potential to do great things in the world, be change-makers, and go out of their way to help others. BBYO gives a lot of great prep for teens to go out in the world and be great citizens who are passionate about helping others.
What is your favorite Jewish holiday?
Hanukkah because we have a tradition in my family where all my cousins, aunts, and uncles go to my grandparents’ place and eat the same meal together every year and play with dreidels. It’s a nice thing to look forward to.
You can reach Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org.