YEA Camp 2012: Our Best Year Yet!

There are a lot of things about the work of putting YEA Camp on that can be challenging, but every year maybe the hardest thing about it is finding the words to communicate in just a few paragraphs what the experience of our camps was like, and to even remotely do justice to the inspiration, community, creativity, confidence, and ultimately activism to make a difference that develops at YEA Camp.

We can start with just the facts for 2012, which are easier to convey. This year we expanded to have 4 sessions – 2 in Oregon, 1 in California at a bigger venue than we’ve had before, and, for the first time on the east coast, 1 in New Jersey – and reached almost 90 teenagers who traveled from over a dozen states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington state, and Washington, DC) and 3 other countries (England, Switzerland, and Taiwan)!

Our campers chose issues of importance (IOIs) including factory farming, the environment, bullying, LGBT rights, police brutality, advocating for the people of Tibet and Darfur, corporate influence, pet overpopulation, and more.

“So, how did camp go?”

At the end of each summer, we get asked this question all the time by friends and YEA Camp supporters. The short answer is AMAZINGLY! YEA Camp 2012 was beyond inspiring: packed with creative workshops, silly games, meaningful conversations, deep friendships, ah-ha moments, compelling calls to action, opportunities to overcome fears and take risks, and over 100 of the most amazing motivated and compassionate youth and adults you are likely to meet.

These weeks reaffirmed participants’ belief that they can make a difference, that there are others out there who care deeply about the most pressing issues of our times, and provided campers and staff alike with knowledge, skills, confidence, and community — the four core areas our curriculum develops — to go out and have an even bigger impact than ever before.

The longer answer to the question “how did camp go?” makes us want to ask “how much time do you have?”! How do you explain what goes into even one session that results in even one camper saying, “This week has truly boosted my spirits and given me all that I need to make the world a better place. I’m not sure what I’d do if there weren’t people like you to support people like me and to restore my faith in humanity. Thanks so much – this week is one of the most valuable in my life“? (We love you too, Jasmine! 🙂 And then how do you multiply that by 4 sessions of camps and each of our campers, many of whose feedback about camp bring tears of pride and fulfillment to our eyes? For a hefty dose of inspiration, and to hear about YEA Camp from our campers themselves, check out our testimonials page.

If you want to SEE how amazing our camps were this summer, check out our session photos on Facebook. We are thrilled to be releasing videos of our 2012 sessions in the coming weeks.

Our campers have already done such great things since camp ended!

We let our campers know up front that while YEA Camp will be a lot of fun, that is not the point of it. The purpose of YEA Camp is to support each of our campers in making a difference on the issues they care about once they return home.This group of youth has blown us away with their dedication, creativity, and commitment. The things they are doing are truly inspiring. Take a look at just a few highlights:

-Connor from Oregon wrote a school climate survey to gather data about how safe students feel at school, as a preliminary step to creating an anti-bullying program at his high school.

-Djuna from New York City led a trip to New Orleans with 13 high school juniors and seniors to work on an urban farm with Lower Ninth Ward teens, where she led social justice workshops to her peers.

-Nick from Illinois has started volunteering with Mercy For Animals and has found two faculty advisors and several other students to launch a new veg club at his high school. So far, at least 10 friends who eat meat have committed to taking a one-week vegan challenge the group is putting on.

-Katie from Los Angeles is the president of her school’s Gay Straight Alliance, which kicked off the new school year with a bang, holding a “Chapel of Love” where anyone can get married, complete with ring-pop rings and marriage “certificates” that include information about marriage rights and same-sex marriage.

-Mehar from New Jersey is starting a project to expand access to education for girls in poor countries.

This list is just the tip of the iceburg of incredibly moving things we know our campers have done in just the short time since they have returned from YEA Camp. Want to read more about what our campers are up to? Click here for many other inspiring updates of the work our campers are doing in their communties.

Thank you to all of you who have participated in any way in making YEA Camp such an inspiring and fulfilling experience for all of us. The fruits of the seeds we planted this year will be nourishing our planet for years to come.