Have you noticed that since the election a lot of young people — even many who were too young to vote —have gotten more engaged than ever in speaking up for the world they want to live in? We noticed too!
Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp is a summer camp for social change. A week-long overnight leadership camp, YEA Camp has trained over 500 teens and tweens to make a difference on a cause they care about.
Even though YEA Camp has been going strong for 8 years, it may as well have been designed for the countless young people across the country who are currently freaking out about the new political climate, which has taken the need there already was to get active on important causes – issues like racism, poverty, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, immigrant rights, the environment, animal rights, and more – to a whole new level.
To be clear, YEA Camp does not push campers to support any particular issue, party, or candidate. That is for them to decide based on their own passions and beliefs. But, to give an indication of where YEA Campers stand, when, on July 4 last summer, campers held a special mock debate and election, not only did the current president not win the popular vote. He literally didn’t get any votes. And the camper portraying Donald Trump literally apologized for the things she was about to say in character.
The day after the election, many of our campers (and many people all over the world) were truly alarmed. They felt the new administration poses serious threats to the issues they deeply care about. We held a group call that night to talk through people’s fears and brainstorm what people can do, and campers from across the country came together to support one another in moving forward.
Here are 10 ways YEA Camp can help the change-making teen in your life cope with and make a difference in the age of Trump.
1. Meet like-minded friends and inspiring staff role models. Some YEA Campers report being the only person they know who cares as much as they do about their cause. Some even experience bullying because they have taken a stand for what they care about. Being surrounded by peers and mentors who also care deeply helps us feel that we are not alone, that we have people we can rely on for help, and that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
2. Build resilience and learn how to deal with the sadness and anger we feel about the injustices of the world. Through powerful activities designed to safely experience and share our emotions about the world, YEA Campers find healthy ways to express and process emotions, practice self-care, and strengthen their relationships.
3. Learn about the history of social movements and how we each fit in and can do our part. It may seem like today’s problems are worse than they ever were, or like we are up against the impossible, but learning about activists who came before us who literally helped end slavery, gave so many of us the right to vote, led to environmental protections, and so much more helps us see that change takes time but that we can and must win.
4. Deepen understanding of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. Through interactive workshops and activities, YEA Campers examine various forms of privilege, how injustice is institutionalized, and how it can be disrupted. We can all find ways to leverage our privileges and be allies across movements. These organizations have some great resources to get more educated and active.
- Learn specific things you can do in your everyday life to bring about change. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to figure out how to get involved, or to know if one person can make a difference, especially at a young age. Thankfully, from improving your school’s recycling or cafeteria food, fundraising for your favorite cause, making or sharing Youtube videos, speaking up when you hear someone being bullied, and so much more, the things young people can do to make a difference are endless. Check out these great organizations and get connected with (at least!) one working on a cause you care about.
- There’s so much we can do outside of the political system, but every citizen should learn about our political system and how you can impact it, even if you’re too young to vote. Voting is important, yes, but it makes far less of a difference than influencing other voters or our leaders directly. And we can all do that, even if we don’t have the right to vote (yet). Check out the Indivisible Guide, Project 1461, CTZNwell.org, and our YEA Camp Guide for Kids Too Young to Vote to get started.
- Build skills to make a difference at your school, like starting a club, grassroots outreach, or planning a campaign. How about improving the food in your school cafeteria, getting better recycling at school, or starting a school fundraiser for a local shelter or launching an anti-bullying initiative? At YEA Camp, you’ll learn how to do these things, and more.
- Improve your communication skills, especially when speaking with people in positions of authority and people who disagree with you. (Or both at the same time!)
- Strengthen your self-confidence and find your voice. Through powerful activities to overcome limiting beliefs, as well as developing your skills, expanding your knowledge, and being surrounded with an incredibly supportive community of people who will be cheering you on like you have never experienced before, you will leave YEA Camp fired up and ready to go make a difference.
- Have fun! These are tough times for many of us, and we need to take care of ourselves and enjoy our lives! While YEA Camp is focused on making a difference, it is so fun! From silly games and a dance party to a talent show and free time to just hang out with new friends, YEA Campers often describe their experience as the best week of their life!
We could go on, but how many reasons do you really need?
If you or someone you know is a 12-17 year-old who wants to change the world, check out the dates, locations on both coasts, and details on YEACamp.org and get registered to join us for a life-changing experience at YEA Camp this summer.
The curriculum of YEA Camp’s training (and the list above) is based on developing 4 core needs for activists of any age: knowledge, skills, confidence, and community. Which of those would make a difference for you?