Describing YEA Camp after each summer always feels like an impossible task. How do you tell the stories of each of the young leaders whose experience at YEA Camp helps them find their voice, step into their power, and have what many call the best week of their life?
That’s our standard, incredible experience every summer, so it’s sometimes more fun to highlight the more rare or unique developments at each new summer of YEA Camp. As we already begin to prepare for next summer, here are a few of our favorite accomplishments from summer 2017.
- Camper-Made Videos to Share the Unique Experience of YEA Camp
This summer several campers came to YEA Camp prepared to document their experience on social media, while others got inspired to do so. So, before we further attempt the challenge of sharing about our YEA Camp summer, we’re going to let YEA Camper Noor Aldayeh do it for us in this video.
You can also check out videos by campers Emma and Natalie, as well as this awesome short video (including footage taken with drones!) by the fine folks at V for Veganism, who visited us at camp to learn more about and share our work. We were also thrilled to have a professional film crew with us all week at our California camp documenting our experience for a longer-term project they are working on. We’ll keep you posted on that!
2. More Former Campers On Staff Than Ever Before
This was our NINTH year of YEA Camp, which means that we now have a lot of campers who have gone through our program and are old enough to be on staff. We usually have a few former campers as counselors in training (CITs) each summer, but this year we had 7, many of whom have been standouts in our organization for years, having been on our Youth Advisory Board or been to multiple sessions of YEA Camp. It was an incredible experience to see these young leaders, some of whom we first met when they were 12 or 13, and whom we’ve stayed in close contact with over the years, now on staff training future YEA Campers.They’re all grown up! One of them, Andrew Puccetti, even wrote this awesome article for VegNews magazine about what he learned from his experience.
3. More Diversity and Scholarships Than Ever Before
It’s always important to us that YEA Camp participants represent a wide diversity of ethnicities, socioeconomic status, interests, geographic areas, and life experiences, which we can help facilitate through expanding our outreach as well as offering financial aid.
This year we had more campers than ever before, over 100 young leaders now better equipped to make a difference in their communities. We had more campers than ever before paying the full price — which, along with donations from our very generous supporters, provides funds for our financial aid — and, conversely, more on full or very significant scholarship.
This year, 13% of YEA Campers received a full scholarship, with another 14% paying less than 25% of our standard tuition cost.
We had campers from as far away as Australia, China, and across the US, campers from indigenous communities including one camper who led a workshop teaching Aztec dance and 2 staff who went to Standing Rock, campers who are first-generation Americans including those with families from Somalia and Mexico, campers who are Muslim and wore head scarves, campers who identify as trans or are considering their gender identity, and campers passionate about many different social issues from climate change to healthy relationships, police brutality to animal cruelty, LGBTQ equality to gun control, reproductive rights to eating disorders, and much more.
So many of these young people shared that because of — not in spite of — this diversity, they felt accepted and inspired by their experience meeting fellow activist-minded youth and staff.
4. More Returning Staff and Staff at Multiple Sessions Than Ever Before
We have such outstanding staff members at YEA Camp, and when we can have returning staff members and staff members working at multiple sessions, it makes everything run smoother and builds on past experience. We were thrilled to be able to retain such outstanding staff, and of our 31 staff members this summer, 18 of them had attended at least one previous YEA Camp, and 5 staff attended all 3 sessions that we held this summer!
5. Stronger Post-Camp Communication and Support
Thanks to technology and our campers’ own innovation and commitment, this year campers have chosen to use new tech platforms to stay in touch with everyone from camp, to share activist accomplishments, ask for help, and reach out when they miss one another or need support. Using Discord and GroupMe, YEA Campers and staff have sent each other thousands of group messages to provide ongoing connection in the time since camp ended.
Our monthly all-camp support video calls have also been a great success. With more than 20 campers or staff on our calls, campers have been able to ask and answer one another’s questions regarding fundraising tips, their school clubs, what to say to “haters,” juggling activism with their busy schedules, and much more.
This summer was a huge success and inspiration for us to keep expanding our programs to support activists in making our world a better place.
This was also the first summer of YEA Camp where we had a president that was universally hated by campers and staff, and the current political and accompanying social climate and divisiveness make YEA Camp even more needed.
We are thrilled to have some big things in the works for YEA Camp 2018, which we will be sharing very soon.
Until then, we are so grateful for all of our campers, parents, staff, volunteers, and donors for enabling YEA Camp to continue our programs to empower people to do activism and bring about a better world.