As we celebrate our 5th summer of YEA Camp, we are proud that each session just gets better and better. Our first session of Summer 2013, in the gorgeous Santa Cruz, CA, Redwoods, was a huge success and, even if we didn’t have two other sessions this summer, made all of our efforts to prepare for camp throughout the year worth it!
YEA Camp’s curriculum is focused on developing four key areas — knowledge, skills, confidence, and community — and we definitely did that!
Campers learned about all kinds of issues they didn’t know about before, like the many impacts of consumerism and how different social problems in the world are related to each other. Do you see how racism is related to environmental pollution, or how war is related to homelessness? We also looked at many different examples of young activists taking inspiring action to make a difference in their community. Check out some of the videos we watched about Brower Youth Awards winners!
We also did skill-building, including learning how to fundraise, start and run a school club, use art and media (traditional and social media) to spread awareness, plan a campaign, understand and participate in the political system, and communicate effectively with people who disagree with us.
Kristin and Alex (right) taught the “snowflake”-style of leadership within a school club, with the leader overseeing and helping other members of the club work on different tasks to help accomplish the club’s goals. You can check out this handout we gave the campers about effective school clubs.
We do SO many things designed to build confidence — and of course developing knowledge and skills builds confidence. On our first morning of camp, we show this inspiring video, “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy,” and all gain confidence being a “lone nut” as well as in knowing that we don’t have to be the person in front to make a difference. One of the of our most inspiring activities, Show Off and Tell, gives campers a chance to inform us all on an issue of importance to them (what we call their “IOI”) and to “show off” about the activism that they have done, which inspires us all and for which they deserve to be appreciated for.
Another favorite confidence-building activity we call “IOI Blitz,” where campers get to practice a one-minute “elevator speech” about their IOI over and over and over again, getting better and better at articulating themselves about an issue they care about. Campers also learn from each other when they all “share about what they care about.”
We also try to teach some important experiential lessons that build confidence. For example, we invite campers to brush their teeth with their non-dominant hand throughout the week as practice for developing new habits and a reminder that doing even very simple things can be difficult at first but get much easier with practice. These four amazing boys, Jose, Ethan, Tommy, and Saul, were among those who took the challenge. Check out those new teeth-brushing skills!
We do so many things to build community at camp, from cute things like doing a thumb circle (this might be the largest thumb circle ever!) to more in-depth activities that involve taking some risks (like performing a silly poem in front of the group) and sharing the emotions we feel about the issues we care about and the injustice we see.
The love and connection YEA Campers developed for each other came through on the notes they wrote each other on their appreciation posters, the dance parties that spontaneously broke out at most meals, the group hugs that spontaneously broke out after most evening activities, the tears and hugs that could be seen in every corner of the room as we said goodbye on the final day, and the inspiring thank you notes campers wrote us.
We did a new culminating activity this year that will become a new YEA Camp tradition: our first ever Changemaker Olympics, where campers got to put into practice their new skills to win campaigns, like creating a plan to address bullying at their school and persuading (mean) Principal Leanne (who insists that bullying isn’t a problem at their school), and making clear demands and running a campaign to persuade Mayor Kyle to address homelessness in their community. (It took a lot of work and good acting by our staff to be just mean or difficult enough to be challenging and similar to what really happens when trying to persuade people who are unsupportive at first. See Leanne struggle to get into character, below.)
This was all great training for campers as they prepared their action plans, which they then presented to the group. It was so incredibly inspiring to hear everyone’s plans for after camp! And they hit the ground running right when they got home!
In the week since camp ended, one camper, Lamanh, went into school and talked with her school principal about launching composting in the cafeteria, and the principal was supportive and they are moving forward with this! Hani created this online petition on Change.org, Ofzerna is raising money to rescue a cow and launched Facebook page for Project July, the animal sanctuary she is working to start (she already has 80 likes), Lacey has been getting the word out about the proposed anti-animal King amendment to the farm bill (you can sign here!) and went to a community meeting with the Humane Society of the US to stop a museum that promotes hunting, Sage created a 3-week vegan meal calendar that her family is implementing, Melissa talked with the city council member she is interning with and will be working on improving environmental policies in her city, and so many other campers did so many more things!
This session has set a high bar for the sessions to come! We are so excited for the campers we will be meeting in Oregon and Massachusetts (a few spots are still available — check out www.yeacamp.org for details), and to be inspired by the many accomplishments of our campers for years to come!
P.S. If all this wasn’t enough for you, check out this blog post written by fabulous YEA Camper Lacey about her experience at YEA Camp!