Every summer of YEA Camp feels like our best yet, but this year we REALLY think this was our best ever! The inspiration was through the roof, the curriculum was outstanding (if we do say so ourselves), the staff was amazing, the venues were beautiful, and the campers were absolutely incredible. Thank you so much to our staff, volunteers, interns, donors, and of course campers, who made YEA Camp such a success! We narrowed down our countless reasons why this summer was so phenomenal to these top 10. If campers, staff, or parents from this year or others want to challenge this list, message us!
Top 10 Reasons 2013 Was Our Best Summer Yet:
1. Our curriculum was our best ever.
YEA Camp’s curriculum is methodically crafted to develop four key areas critical for activists of any age: knowledge, skills, confidence, and community. This year we added a workshop on time management, we strengthened our life-changing Being Unstoppable workshop (which calls into question the accuracy of the mean little voice in our heads), we introduced our first-ever YEA Camp secret handshakes (so fun!), and we launched …
2. The Changemaker Olympics.
On the final full day of camp, teams of campers competed to win campaigns, like persuading “Principal Brian” to get solar panels at school — he needed to see a serious fundraising plan — and proving to faculty club advisor “Ms. Alex” that their school club is worth her time — she needed to see clear goals, a publicity plan, and hear everyone’s passion for the club. Campers put their newfound skills and knowledge into practice and faced some of the challenges that can come along with working for change.
3. Graduation Ceremony
As fun as YEA Camp is, it also challenging. We nudge campers out of their comfort zones to express their feelings, speak in public, overcome fears, and dream big. This year, we celebrated each camper with a graduation ceremony and gave each of them certificates of completion, signed with a personal note from each staff member, which read that the camper “Has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to bringing about a better world. Through completion of YEA Camp you have developed yourself as an effective activist and changemaker for years to come.” Parents were so proud, as they should be!
4. Mike McLendon’s Story
One of our fabulous cooks realized early on that YEA Camp was the place for him. A few days into our California camp, he asked if he could volunteer at our upcoming Oregon camp. When we happily accepted this offer, he got himself to Oregon. Halfway through that camp, we joked that he should come to the Massachusetts camp — and he said he wanted to! Next thing we knew, another wonderful staffer, Brian, donated frequent flyer miles to fly Mike to Boston. Mike has pledged his next 5 summers to working at YEA Camp, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
5. So Many Transformational Experiences
There are so many inspiring transformational stories from our camps, and you can read several in our CA, OR, and MA blogs. One special one we haven’t shared took place after a workshop on bullying. At the end of an emotionally challenging activity, we had each camper make a list of wonderful things about themselves – accomplishments, compliments they’ve received, and things they like about themselves — and we went around in a circle where each person shared one. When one boy (who is extremely wonderful) passed, so many people let him know how amazing he is — funny, a great dancer, smart, etc. We were all blown away, especially him. By the end of YEA Camp, people realize they are way more awesome than they realized.
6. Bright and Courageous Arts
One of the many great projects our campers have already launched is called Bright and Courageous Arts, launched by Rylee and Phoebe, two 14-year-olds who became fast friends at our Oregon camp. Matching their talent for making crafts with their passion for animal protection and gay rights, they launched their new Etsy store a few short weeks after camp ended. Proceeds go to a different nonprofit each month, with September’s recipient being Mercy For Animals.
7. Taking Over the Quaker Center
When we held our first session of YEA Camp in 2009, we held it at the gorgeous Quaker Center just outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Last year was our first year where we did not have camp there as we had outgrown the space, but this year we actually reserved both lodges at the Quaker Center, taking over their whole property and doubling the number of campers that we reached. We love being back at this beautiful space!
8. YEA in Schools!
We are thrilled that for the first time some of the curriculum and spirit of YEA Camp is making its way into public schools during the school year– so far in two states. Two YEA staffers who live in Denver pitched Green Valley Ranch High school on us teaching a YEA elective course there, and they said yes! Thirty high-schoolers are meeting with longtime YEA staffer Leanne 3 times a week for 3 months to make a difference in their community! And in Sacramento, one of our amazing campers Lacey has launched the first ever YEA school club! We are working with her as she holds weekly meetings to encourage other students to get active on social justice issues that they care about. We are so proud! These are pilot programs that we are excited to learn from and build upon, so let us know if you’re interested in bringing YEA to your school!
We were beyond thrilled when one of our campers, Andrew — already an experienced and accomplished activist — let us know a few days into the Massachusetts camp that he wants to be deeply involved in YEA Camp’s growth to impact even more youth. He has already begun to intern with us so that we can do even more to support our campers and expand our programs. We feel like we hit the jackpot. Check out his blog post about his camp experience!
10. Post-camp Camper Accomplishments
Our campers make it clear how impactful YEA Camp is, and of course we get testimonials, have them fill out formal evaluations, and get quantitative and qualitative feedback from parents, but ultimately the way we measure the effectiveness of our programs is by the activism our campers do after camp. And they have done so much! Some have already made significant changes in their school — like transforming their cafeteria to offer veggie burgers, to compost, and to use reusable trays instead of styrofoam. Others have started school clubs, created online petitions, and personally met with their state legislators. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post highlighting some amazing camper projects.
We couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishments this summer, and we are so grateful for all of the campers, staff, donors, interns, volunteers, and supporters who helped to make it such a success.