At Atlanta Council BBYO’s Spring Convention each year, seniors are given the opportunity to share their “life” with the convention body, expressing the impact their time in BBYO has had on them.

One senior shared these words in March that have inspired me in my work for our pluralistic Jewish community: “BBYO has given me experience in programming, helped me with public speaking and my self-confidence. More than that, I received my Jewish identity. Through events and summer programs, I learned being Jewish doesn’t mean just attending services, learning Hebrew or memorizing prayers. BBYO taught me what being Jewish really is. It’s community … knowing, whatever you’re going through, you’re never, ever alone. BBYO was able to turn me … into a confident leader.”

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, our programming year has just begun, and we are given the opportunity to both look back on our achievements and forward at what is to come as our community grows and develops more meaningful programming.

In 5777, we facilitated new, large-scale programs, including an Electoral College tailgate on Election Night, an AZA (boys) overnight at the College Football Hall of Fame, a BBG (girls) night out, and a kickoff event in August that brought over 240 teens to a Braves game.

Perhaps the most impactful moments in our community for BBYO teens occur at our five annual local conventions. Our New Member Convention in the fall welcomed over 120 teens to their first convention, where they developed relationships with older members who live near them and met other new members from all over the Atlanta metro area. While the focus was on younger members, our teen leadership created what will become an annual tradition, as the entire senior class led an inspiring Havdalah ceremony for the whole convention.

At our largest convention of the year, Southern Region Convention, Atlanta came together with teens from the rest of Georgia and South Carolina for a weekend of interchapter competitions and relationship building. We also embraced the current state of our teens’ engagement with social media, using our first Snapchat geofilters.

Each year, the programming at our Kallah convention centers on Judaism, Israel and community service. In January, we welcomed two teens from Israel as they toured various BBYO communities, as well as one teen from Georgia (the country) as a result of a teen-driven fundraising campaign and globalization effort.

We also partnered with our local Tzofim (Israel Scouts) chapter and Emory University’s Center for Israel Education to provide our teens with multiple perspectives on Israel.

Our Spring Convention was coupled with our annual Family Shabbat, where we welcomed over 450 teens, relatives and community members and had an opportunity to hear parting words from our largest class of graduating seniors at Senior Life while electing our next board of teen leadership.

Outside our local experiences, the Atlanta Jewish community was represented strongly at BBYO’s international level this past year. For the third consecutive year, we were the largest traveling delegation to BBYO’s International Convention, where we were awarded the Spirit Gavel. At IC, we had teens lead programs and initiatives, receive awards, and run for and be elected to serve on the International Executive Board.

Atlanta Council also was represented by teen leaders at AIPAC’s High School Summit, the International March of the Living, BBYO’s multitude of immersive summer experiences, and Lift Every Voice, the inaugural Jewish song-leading conference sponsored by the Association of Independent Jewish Camps, the JCC Association of North America and BBYO.

Looking forward, we are eager to build on our successes to engage more Jewish teens in our community with their peers through unique teen-led programming. We are on the verge of surpassing 1,000 teen members in the Atlanta metro area and plan on bringing another record-setting delegation to IC 2018 in Orlando.

The impact BBYO makes on its teens does not happen magically, and we are grateful for the support of the Marcus Jewish Community Center, as well as our community’s parents, stakeholders, advisers and staff, who all collaborate with the teens for the most meaningful Jewish experience possible.

We are looking for volunteer chapter advisers to support our teens in their efforts to grow as Jews and would love to hear from you if you or someone you know is interested in being a positive influence on the lives of our next generation of Jewish leaders. L’shana tova u’metuka from our BBYO family to yours!

David Hoffman is the director of Atlanta Council BBYO at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.