Oregon YEA Camp Inspires Campers to Move Beyond Personal Barriers

1098239_10152131320169698_1358989563_nEvery session of YEA Camp is different, life-changing and inspiring in its own unique way, and the Oregon 2013 camp was no different.

YEA Camp’s curriculum is based on developing four core areas: knowledge, skills, confidence, and community. And we certainly did that, from workshops on social issues like consumerism and racism to skills trainings like fundraising and starting a school club. However, we felt that even more significant in their impact
1150137_10152131288309698_997959574_nthis session was the confidence and community that developed throughout the week.

We discussed at different points the emotions behind why we care so much about the causes that are most important to us, as well as our fears in being judged or taking action for what we believe in. One camper bravely shared about hiding behind a mask to try to fit in and be liked instead of revealing their true self and potentially feeling judged, hurt, or not liked.

An issue that many people cared deeply about was bullying. Addressing bullying was not in our YEA Camp curriculum for our original 2009 camp, but when we quickly discovered how pervasive and serious this issue is — particularly to our campers who can be targeted for speaking up for what they believe in, even if it’s not “cool” to do so — we decided to do a workshop about bullying at all of our camp sessions.


It is heartbreaking to learn not only the scope of the bullying that’s happening, but even worse to learn of incidents where the school teachers and administration turn a blind eye to this unacceptable behavior. Two of our campers’ action plans (unrelated to each other) are campaigns to change their school administration’s attitudes (or their school’s administration!) about bullying. During free time on two separate occasions, they each invited campers and staff to write letters to their school board, and many did. Yes, this was how many of our campers and staff spent their free time. Have we mentioned how amazing our campers and staff are?

It takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when others disagree or feel safer remaining silent. We like to be inspired by the “lone nut” in this short video. Sometimes a leader needs “the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous,” kind of like YEA staffer Leanne did when she went crazy acting out a certain poem about a bumble bee that we perform at YEA Camp.


All of the campers got up and looked ridiculous in front of everyone (that’s the point) — well, all except for one camper who was too nervous. She told Leanne that she was setting a private goal to do it at another time at camp, and — just when nobody was expecting it, during after-lunch announcements a couple days later — she performed her poem as well! We were all so proud! All campers and staff get a standing ovation for their performances no matter what, and hers might have been the loudest ever!

Changing the world can be serious business but we also like to have a lot of fun at YEA Camp — it is summer camp after all!

999867_10152131340139698_1618797524_nBy creating a community where people feel safe being and expressing themselves, and learning about different issues and what people are doing about them, campers are able to clearly consider what causes are most important to them and what they want to do to make a difference, knowing that they have a supportive community of people to help and encourage them along the way.

Our campers created such inspiring action plans — as always! One we loved that we wanted to share with you was a rare joint action plan, where two campers 999857_10152131253719698_1471949418_ndecide that they want to work on a project together after camp. (Most people live far away or have different interests, but that wasn’t an issue for Rylee or Phoebe.) These two made quick friends with each other, sharing common interests in gymnastics, animal rights, making crafts, and more. By the end of camp, they shared their plan to start a business to sell the jewelry that Rylee makes and the duct tape wallets that Phoebe makes, to sell them on etsy (coming soon) and at local events, and to give the money they make to charities that support gay rights and animal rights, like Mercy For Animals. We are so proud of all of our campers!

There is so much we can each do to make a difference, and our campers and staff all inspired us and each other to keep going and do our best!