What to Expect at YEA Camp

Not sure what to expect at YEA Camp?

Well, we can hardly believe it, but Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp is preparing for its 15th (!) summer training aspiring activists! (Two of those were virtual because of the Covid pandemic, but they still count in our book!)

So. after 32 in-person camps, 12 virtual sessions, and lotssss of testimonials, we are pretty confident we know what to expect. And we want you to know too!

So here, in no particular order, are 15 things you can expect as a camper (or guardian of a camper, or even as a staff member!) at YEA Camp this summer.

1. Finding Your People and Fitting In Perfectly

Our campers are some of the best humans in the world. They literally want to spend part of their summer vacation learning how they can make a bigger difference in the world. If only everyone wanted to do that! But many of our campers tell us that at school they sometimes (or maybe always) feel like that they don’t quite fit in, or that they are one of the only people at their school who cares about a certain issue.

At YEA Camp, they fit in perfectly. They’ll meet people just as passionate as they are about a certain cause. And they’ll meet people who are super passionate about other causes they might not know as much about.

And then of course there’s our amazing staff! These are some of the best role models a young person could ask for.(We’re hiring, by the way!)

These are like-minded people who can be friends or mentors for life and have way more in common than classmates at school. If you’re wondering what to expect from other campers or staff at YEA Camp, if you’re passionate about making a difference on progressive causes, we know you’ll fit right in.

2. Feeling Hopeful and Inspired

Don’t get us wrong. If you’re paying attention to the state of the world, there are lots of reasons to be demoralized and pissed off. We actually talk a lot about that at YEA Camp. This is not some Polyanna utopia where we tell you that everything is magically going to be OK. We’re not going to solve all of the world’s problems by the end of camp.

But you will learn how change happens and meet other people who are making a difference on the causes you care about. You will see that while we have every right to be angry or down about the state of the world, there are also reasons for optimism that can inspire action.  Our campers report feeling much more hopeful about the state of the world after camp than when they arrived.

YEA Camp's Changemaker Toolbox

YEA Camp’s Changemaker Toolbox

3. Build Your Changemaker Toolbox

Everything we do at YEA Camp is designed to develop 4 core areas that we feel are critical for activists.

First is knowledge. Knowledge about problems in the world and knowledge about solutions to those problems.

Next is skills to actually do something about those problems.

Then there’s building confidence. Developing knowledge and skills also builds confidence, but we will go a lot deeper than that.

And finally, there’s community so that you know you’re not alone. And you’re definitely not.

(More on all of these below!)

4. Figuring Out What to Do


Our campers show up to YEA Camp passionate about making an impact on at least one cause, but often they don’t know what to do or how or why to do it.

You’ll have the first half of camp to learn about different issues. Then, at about the midway point, you’ll get to choose what we call your Issue of Importance (IOI). This is the issue you primarily want to focus on.

At YEA Camp, we will teach you what we call the 4 Levels of Activism. This will give you tons of ideas to help you get started.

Then we’ll teach skills like effective communication, campaign planning, fundraising, grassroots outreach, and lots more. Want to learn more about politics? You’re in the right place. Maybe you want to start a school club? We’ve got you covered.

These are all actions you can take to make a difference on the cause you care about in a way that inspires you.

Don’t worry. You actually don’t need to know that much to get started on any of these things, but YEA Camp is one of the only places where you can get just enough training to get started or get serious about making a difference.

5. Figuring Out What to Say

Sometimes the hardest part about being an activist can be knowing what to say in different situations.

Maybe someone is legitimately curious about your cause, and you have a chance to educate and inspire them! Fantastic! At YEA Camp, you’ll develop your talking points, your elevator pitch, and your answers to the most frequently asked questions about your issue.

On the other hand, sometimes people just want to give us a hard time and don’t actually care about our cause. We’ll teach you about the Spectrum of Agreement, which will help you know how to handle this. Some people just aren’t worth your time, and we’ll help you prepare for these situations so you can handle yourself with poise.

What if you have a chance to do public speaking or to talk with a decision maker with power over your issue? We’ll help you with that too!

Everyone gets better with practice.

6. Using Your Unique Passions and Creativity For Your Cause

Are you passionate about art — whether it’s visual art like painting or music and spoken word? We do a workshop on arts activism to help you express yourself creatively for your cause! Maybe you love social media? We will teach you some key tools to apply those skills to get the word out about your issue.

We all have certain things we love to do or are just good at. Maybe you love to write or cook or skateboard?

There are so many ways to make a difference, and they are not all going to protests or public speaking.

We’ll do a whole activity to help you brainstorm how to creatively apply your natural gifts and passions for a cause you care about.

7. Overcoming Your Limiting Beliefs

We mentioned that as you learn more about your cause and what to do about it, it will build your confidence. But we all have self doubts and limiting beliefs that can hold us back. Really, we hold ourselves back when we believe these things.

We get deep into this. What do you tell yourself about why you can’t be successful? Why do you think people won’t listen to you? Is that actually true and a legitimate reason? Did you come out of the womb as someone who is “shy,” “a procrastinator,” or for whatever other reason you might have not able to make an impact? We think not!

Developing a positive mental attitude will help you in every aspect of your life in and outside of activism.

We describe the food at YEA Camp as kid-friendly vegan.

We describe the food at YEA Camp as kid-friendly vegan.

8. Eat Amazing Food!

YEA Camp takes our food very seriously!

We are powering the next generation of changemakers, and that means we need to feed you well!

To us “well” means several things.

It means the food has to be a perfect combo of healthy, delicious, filling, and ethical. That’s why we have the most amazing chefs cooking at YEA Camp!

Want to know more about the food at YEA Camp or even see some sample menus to know what to expect?

Read more about our food here!

9. Silliness and Fun

YEA Camp is not all serious workshops and vegan brownies. We do a lot of goofy activities and offer 2-3 hours a day of free time with lots of fun activities to choose from.

YEA Camp is held at a camp right on a like, where campers love to go swimming or kayaking. We have a basketball court, a Gaga pit, volleyball, soccer, or picnic tables if you just want to hang out and chat.

Whether you like to get up early to go for a run or do yoga, or you prefer to sleep in and rest, there’s a great combo of camp time and down time to enjoy your summer.

YEA Camp has beautiful, modern camp facilities

10. Beautiful and Comfortable Facilities Out In Nature

YEA Camp is held at a gorgeous camp in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. Not sure what to expect from our cabins? Don’t worry! Our facilities are super modern and comfortable. Of course there are the basics, like cabins with electricity and indoor bathrooms. Plus there’s gorgeous views while we eating overlooking the lake, and fresh air and quiet away from the busyness of city life. Well see geese and birds and squirrels and if we’re lucky, some deer. We’re pretty sure you’ll see more stars at YEA Camp than you do at home, too!

11. Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Changing the world can look lots of different ways, and we want you to build your muscles for taking action in ways that might push your comfort.

What if you had the opportunity to speak to your whole class, your whole school, or maybe your school principal, or the city council about your cause? Would you do it or would you say no because you’d be too nervous?

We will create an environment where you will be able to challenge your comfort zone. Don’t worry. We won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. But we will encourage you because YEA Camp is designed to train you in a way that will make it easier for you to say yes and step up in the future when it really counts.

12. Learning to Take Better Care of Yourself

It might seem like activism is all  about helping others, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ll burn out fast.

And as changemakers, we can struggle with the extra challenges that come along with paying attention to what’s happening in the world and the obstacles we face along the way trying to make a difference on them.

At YEA Camp, we do a whole Self Care activity where you’ll get to try out different ways of taking care of yourself, which is a super important life skill.

Whether it means getting enough sleep, maintaining healthy relationships, having positive self talk, managing your time better, feeling our feelings, developing healthy coping mechanisms, or not taking it personally when you don’t get the results you’re hoping for, it is up to each of us to take good care of ourselves so that we’re also able to make a difference for others.

13.  Developing an Action Plan for When You Get Home

By the end of our time together at YEA Camp, you will get to create an action plan for how you want to make a difference when you get home.

This action plan is not something you have to do, and in fact it will probably change once you get home and start taking action, but it will give you direction. Maybe your action plan is to start an environmental club at your high school, but when you get to school this fall you find out that there already is an environmental club. That’s actually great news! You can join that club and adjust your plan from there.

At camp, you’ll get to work in small groups with a staff member who has experience working on your IOI and with other campers who are just as passionate as you are about that issue. We’ll help you come up with SMART goals and teach you an important skill called backward-planning to set you up for success. We’ll also have you do some important time management techniques to consider your priorities and to be realistic while also making time for what matters most to you.

You can expect some amazing humans at YEA Camp!

You can expect some amazing humans at YEA Camp!

14. Having a Community To Support You

Most people will make friends at a camp that they go to. That’s basic for what to expect.

But at YEA Camp you can expect to make even more meaningful friendships because of all our campers have in common and because of the depth of the activities we do at camp.

This is extra important for once camp ends. Of course we all want to have more friends, but having people who really understand what you’re trying to do to make a difference is even more important for changemakers at YEA Camp.

Of course, it’s up to each person to take the initiative to stay in touch after camp. But what you can expect is a community of people who will be rooting for you when things get challenging and cheering for you when you share a success.

15. Being Proud of Who You Are

One thing that has been heartbreaking to us over the years at the start of camp is to see how many of our campers have been bullied or made fun of for caring about making our world a better place.

It can be tempting to believe criticism from haters or people who don’t have the courage of their convictions, but that’s not who YEA Campers are.

You will leave YEA Camp proud of yourself for caring, for taking action, and for being someone actively working to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

What to Expect: A Life-Changing Camp for World-Changing Teens

This is really just scratching the surface, but we hope this helps you learn a little bit more about what to expect at YEA Camp!

As we celebrate our 15th year, we are always looking to improve and grow, and so we are hoping for the unexpected too!

If you want to learn more about YEA Camp, check out these testimonials from past campers, parents, and staff, read all the details on our website www.yeacamp.org, send us a message, or sign up here!

We hope to see you this summer and that YEA Camp is everything you expect and more.