Another Amazing YEA Camp Summer Training Young Activists Online

We’re so proud to share that another amazing summer of YEA Camp is in the (history) books!

Given the continued uncertainty and risks of Covid, and how great Virtual YEA Camp was last  year, we felt good about our choice to hold YEA Camp virtually again — and it turned out great!

All in all, we held 4 sessions and had almost 100 campers. We had amazing guest speakers and inspiring activities, raised thousands of dollars for great causes, learned so much, strengthened our community, and saw huge growth in our campers.

It’s so hard to explain YEA Camp in a blog post. Yet, every year we try!

Here are some ways our campers said in their evaluation they would describe Virtual YEA Camp to a friend:

  • a fun, empowering, and educating experience where you stepped outside of your comfort zone and made a difference.
  • A great experience with absurdly nice people who show you easy but often ignored ways to make a difference.
  • YEA Camp is a diverse, engaging, and social camp about activism that helps you raise money, make friends, and learn.
  • I would describe it as a wonderful community experience where you get to learn about important issues in the world while also just having fun with the other campers!
  • The Best Camp Ever

How Does Virtual YEA Camp Compare to In-Person YEA Camp?

It took months of about 20 past YEA Campers and staff having planning meetings to figure it out last year, but eventually, we came up with an exciting, dynamic schedule and curriculum to bring the best of what we do in-person into a virtual setting.

We asked fundamental questions, like “what makes a camp a camp if it’s remote?” And “what are the most important parts of YEA Camp that we need to find a way to do virtually?” And “how can we create a curriculum where people could join us for 1, 2, 3, or 4 sessions where each session could stand on its own?”

We also found ways to take advantage of the benefits of doing camp virtually, like being accessible to more campers, attracting amazing guest speakers, and working on activist projects together.

Virtual YEA Camp is a combination of:

  • Workshops – similar to the activism training we do at in-person camps (learning about problems in the world and building skills and confidence to address them)
  • Change the World (CTW) small groups – campers work on activist projects together (fundraising, advocacy, raising awareness) collaborating with other campers and a counselor passionate about the same cause
  • Happy Hour – activities that are similar to what we do at camp during free time, and conducive to Zoom. Some we did this year were improv games, cooking classes,  yoga,  digital arts activism, and virtual visits to animal sanctuaries.
  • Evening activities – similar to our in-person YEA Camp activities, like Show Off + Tell and the YEA Show, along with a game night, discussion night, and sharing action plans.

Did we mention that it was super fun?!

Playing activist trivia, a scavenger hunt, baking cookies, and just making friends was a blast. And our Pet Cuteness Contests were actually the cutest!

One of the most special parts of in-person YEA Camp is the love and sense of community. That’s where we knew doing the camp virtually could feel different. Surprising even to us, there was a lovefest at Virtual YEA Camp as well.

Here are some of the comments from the chat as we said our goodbyes on Friday.

  • Stefani: THANKS SO MUCH EVERYONE!! I’ll never forget the memories and friends made during yea camp !!!!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Noelle: This was amazing! Don’t forget us all when you do great things for this world! 《3
  • Dax: Thank you to all the counselors for teaching me and thank you to all my teammates for helping me and thank you to everyone!!!!!!
  • Gigi: Thank you thank you thank you to everyone. You all inspire me so much
  • Eliza: thank you so much everybody this past month was amazing
  • Nicole:  Thank you. I will never forget this amazing experience.
  • Jack: THANK every single one of you😭😭😭😭😭😭😭

We’re not crying! You’re crying! (And Jack’s crying!)

Our Incredible Speakers and Staff

We are so proud that all of our staff members and many of our guest speakers are not only incredible activists but are previous YEA Campers or staff members themselves who were able to bring their experience from in-person YEA Camp into the virtual setting.

One of the best parts about Virtual YEA Camp is the incredible, highly qualified staff and guest speakers who were able to join us who otherwise might not be able to be with us in-person, and that our staff was able to participate while juggling their busy activist lives! Like:

  • Julia Clark, who, as the VP of the Black Student Movement at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, was successfully campaigning to protest the scandal of the school declining tenure to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones
  • Rey Watson, who when not with us during virtual camp hours was doing activism on lots of different projects — working with their local Sunrise Hub to protest the PennEast Pipeline, protesting the animal abuse at SeaQuest, and rallying to pressure New Jersey’s governor to support a bill for clean jobs in their state
  • Monica Carr, 4x YEA counselor who now lives in Guatemala and was able to join us on staff from another country, while other amazing staff members Alina de Zoysa, Liam-Davis-Bosch, Maya Diaz-Villalta, and Andina Aste-Nieto were able to juggle YEA Camp while busy preparing to go away to college for the first time, on vacation with family, having another part-time job, and/or managing other personal, family, and activist commitments.

And many of our amazing guest speakers would not have been able to attend YEA Camp in-person, like:

  • Two former YEA Camp counselors who now have their PhDs in activist fields: Dr. Alice Ragland has a PhD in Multicultural and Equity Studies in Education, from Columbus, Ohio; and Dr. Abel Gomez, who recently completed his PhD and will be teaching in the department of Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. They would not have been able to join us in-person
  • An incredible activist (name withheld) who has long Covid and has been sick for well over year. This person would have been on staff with us this year and last year if not for Covid. Doing YEA Camp virtually meant that they could be a guest speaker and contribute so much from home.
  • Too many other people to list (or to leave out!) who have full-time jobs, families, or commitments that made in-person YEA Camp not possible for them to attend but who were able to join us this virtually summer.

You can see just some of our speakers here.

It’s amazing for our campers to get to learn from such outstanding activists!

YEA Camp Curriculum

YEA Camp’s curriculum has been developed and iterated over the course of more than a decade, and over the past year and a half, we’ve worked on adapting it to an online setting.

At in-person as well as at Virtual YEA Camp, our curriculum is focused on developing:

  • knowledge – about problems in the world
  • skills – to be able to dress them effectively
  • confidence – to speak up and take action, and
  • community – to know you’re not alone and have the support you need

These core areas were built into our curriculum at each of our 4 sessions:

  • Becoming a Changemaker: building a foundation for what activism is, examining your identity, and finding ways to make a difference for a cause that you care about in a way that inspires you
  • Understanding the Issues: learning more about major problems in the world — like racism, gender equality, climate change and animal cruelty — and how those issues connect to one another, and many more
  • Skills to Make a Difference: developing core activism skills that can be applied to any cause or issue, like campaign planning, fundraising, communication skills, and publicity.
  • Careers for Changemakers: seeing examples of so many different ways people are making a difference in their careers, from being a social entrepreneur to a therapist, an attorney to a PhD.

Each week, campers got to learn from amazing youth activists — former YEA Campers just a few years further along. Campers worked in small Change the World groups to work on different activist projects on their cause. In their groups, they did advocacy, launched fundraisers, and educated themselves and others on their issue of importance.

Camper Accomplishments

Ultimately, YEA Camp is all about what our campers accomplish after camp is over.

But with Virtual YEA Camp, our campers did activism during camp!

They made Activism Starter Guides to educate themselves and others about their cause, they raised thousands of dollars for the nonprofits of their choice, and they did advocacy to reach out to decision-makers to make a request for their cause.

We’re still calculating the accomplishments, but in our campers’ words, here are some of what they accomplished:

  • I made new friends, helped raise money for a great cause, learned new things, jumped out of my comfort zone, and became more aware of society’s problems.
  • I made a more realistic and achievable action plan and I also made a call to a state representative!
  • Met a lot of amazing activists and mentors, and created an action plan for after camp.
  • I learned so much about being an activist, and I got to plan for what comes next, and meet so many amazing people.
  • I helped create a campaign guide for the Green New Deal!
  • Called my congress representative and raised money for Greenpeace!
  • I shared our fundraiser and got tons of my family involved and helped them to become more aware. We surpassed our fundraising goal!
  • I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and it ended up being really fun.

And so much more!

What’s next

What’s next for our campers is changing the world! They all have action plans to make a difference on their cause, and now they have a community to cheer them on along the way.

What’s next for YEA Camp is very much up in the air! There is so much to decide on from here.

We’re going to celebrate our accomplishments and rest for a bit.

We’ll debrief the million things we did well and the million things we can do better.

We’re also going to be saying thank you, thank you, thank you to so many people. To our staff, guest speakers, campers, their families, donors, and everyone else who has supported YEA Camp along the way.

Thank you to you.

And then we will be considering so many possibilities for where YEA Camp could go from here. We have so many ideas of programs we could do online in addition to hopefully being able to hold YEA Camp in person again soon.

What ideas do you have for us? Would you like to be part of the decision-making process? Our community is wide, from past campers, staff, parents, donors, volunteers, and other supporters, and we’d love to hear your input as we continue to reinvent and reimagine the next incarnations of YEA Camp.

To stay up to date on what we’re up to, follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and on our email list.

Thanks again for all your support in making another successful YEA Camp summer possible!