We asked our campers to finish the sentence, “If Not For YEA Camp…”

YEA cameprs Leah and Liam!

YEA Campers Leah and Liam at the People’s Climate March

Season’s greetings, friends!
As 2014 comes to a close and summer is at its farthest away, we are reflecting back and are so proud of YEA Campers for all they have accomplished this year.

From launching anti-bullying initiatives at school to attending their first protest, starting a school club to having the courage to speak up for a cause they believe in, our campers are doing amazing things. We are honored that so many of them credit YEA Camp with helping them to become more effective activists – or to even getting involved at all for a cause they care about.

To measure the impact of YEA Camp, we ask campers to tell us about activism they have done that — according to them — would not have happened if not for YEA Camp. We asked them to complete the phrase, If Not for YEA Camp… and what they had to say is amazing!

10547626_10153066886244698_488404055169693032_nIf not for YEA Camp I wouldn’t have been able to write or speak as persuasively as I did to authority. YEA Camp also taught me how to start a functional school club. If not for YEA Camp I would have given up the first time someone said ‘no’ to my activism plan.” -Sage, 13 from California

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 3.42.04 PM“If not for YEA Camp, I wouldn’t have focused on my issue at all probably. Before YEA Camp I had really lost my passion for my IOI [issue of importance] and was distracted with so many other things. After YEA Camp, I found my love and passion again. I have also gotten back in the habit of not putting up with hate or discrimination from my peers.” -Katlyn, 17, from Oregon

roberto pic
If not for YEA Camp, I would not have the confidence to keep moving on even with the racist bigots at my school because of the great network of people I met.”
-Roberto, 17, from North Carolina

Shelby


“If not for YEA Camp, 
I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to commit to so many different projects and be such a leader! and I wouldn’t have been as organized with it all.”
-Shelby, 17 from Los Angeles, who was a camper 2 years ago and a Counselor in Training this year. Here she is leading our workshop on school clubs.

1157445_10152131264424698_981347756_n“If it weren’t for YEA Camp, I wouldn’t have been kind enough to myself to prepare for the actions I need to take this year.”
-Kami, 15, from Oregon

10805222_335178216669301_1110266636_n (1)If not for YEA Camp, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with an idea to bring more attention to bullying in my school and actually succeed…. I honestly wouldn’t have done any of these things without YEA Camp.” [See future post about YEA Camp Hero Joyce and this previous post to learn more about the extensive amount of inspiring activism Joyce has done since camp!]
-Joyce, 14, from New Jersey

“YEA Camp has officially changed my activism life and my social life. I have more confidence, I am way more outgoing, and it has given me a better/different view on the well being of other people in society and on my issue of importance(animal cruelty).” -Tanner, 12, from California

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 3.53.47 PMBefore I came to camp I was not that into changing the world. I really wanted to, but everyone pushed me down or shunned me. And that made me very self-conscious. When I heard about this camp though, it was like a little light popped up in my head. And then when I came to camp, I met so many people some who had done all these huge amazing things and others who were just so loving and supportive of me and so passionate about their cause and wanting to heal the world of all of its issues. No one has ever been there for me like the people at YEA Camp have. Before camp I’d never danced before, I’d never really wanted to hug, I never wanted to do anything in front of anyone. But at camp I knew I could be myself, and people would be kind and be my friend anyway. Now whenever some critical person comes up to me and criticizes me for being a vegan and wearing fake fur, or doing activist work, I always have a smart thing to say back. And I’m not afraid anymore.” -Alanna, 12, from Massachusetts

We are crying! This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many stories like these!

We’ll stop here, but to highlight more of these inspiring young activists in depth, and as part of our year-end fundraising campaign, we are thrilled to bring you 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes! 

Over the next 12 days, instead of golden rings and a partridge in a pear tree, you will meet 12 campers who are taking action to make a difference and how — according to them — YEA Camp helped them do it. Scroll down to see a new inspiring story each weekday.

In recognizing the impact of YEA Camp, we hope you will be inspired to contribute towards sustaining our program. If you’re not sure, here are our Top 3 Reasons to donate to YEA Camp now:

  1. You get big, world-changing bang for your buck. Most of our campers are at a place in their lives where, without training and encouragement, they simply won’t pursue an activist path. Our society just gives people too many reasons not to. But after YEA Camp, so many of our campers do amazing things – from getting recycling bins at their school to raising funds for an important cause to speaking up when hearing racist or homophobic comments – things they tell us they wouldn’t have done if not for YEA Camp. And they do this for years to come. How much is that worth?
  2. You are contributing to the expansion of a sorely needed, truly innovative program. We are facing a world dealing with mostly ignoring climate change, poverty, racism, cruelty to animals, gun violence, and so many other critical issues, yet schools do hardly anything to train youth in how to address these issues. And most public schools certainly don’t actively build youth self-esteem or create a supportive community to encourage them to speak up for what’s important to them. It’s not surprising we have such apathetic adults. We need programs like YEA Camp to expand and be available to millions of students in schools across the country.
  3. Anyone who wants to make a difference deserves the resources to become an effective activist. It is extremely important to us that our program is diverse and that the skills, training, and confidence building that YEA Camp offers is available to any progressive, passionate teen who wants to attend. In fact, those without the financial means to pay the tuition might benefit the most from the program. YEA Camp has never turned a camper away for lack of funds, and that is only possible thanks to the scholarship funds that we raise from supporters like you.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to support YEA Camp here.

Please enjoy 12 Days of Camp Heroes. Scroll down to see each one. We hope you are as inspired by our campers’ stories as we are!

If you are a YEA Camper who wants to share your story, please reach out to us at info @ yeacamp .org! And if you are inspired to join us this summer, we are offering a year-end early bird discount until January 1! Find out more or register at YEACamp.org.

Thank you so much for your support in 2014! Happy holidays from YEA Camp! May every day feel like summer!

Posted in Uncategorized, youth activism, Youth Empowered Action | Leave a comment

YEA Camp Hero Day 4: Lia – Changing the Stigma of Mental Illness

Greetings! Welcome to Day 4 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes!

10544395_10153120235489698_7765641600963848931_n (1)Who are the bee’s knees/the cat’s pajamas? YEA campers! Thus, we bring you 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes as part of our end-of-year fundraising camp-aign, If Not for YEA Camp… Your donation to YEA Camp helps passionate young people to develop the skills, confidence and community they need to make a difference on a cause that they care about. You can support the campaign here.

Today’s YEA Camp Hero is Lia from Washington state (top right), who was so committed to coming to YEA Camp that she flew all the way out to attend our Massachusetts camp this summer because the dates didn’t work for her to be at the closer-by California or Oregon sessions.

Every YEA Camper chooses an issue that is important to them that they want to focus on after camp, and some of those issues hit very close to home. Lia lost someone very close to her to suicide when she was young, and she wrote in her application that “I’ve realized that many people aren’t as informed about mental illness/suicide as they can be. I want to make it a mission for suicide to be something that is understood and preventable rather than something that people joke or don’t speak about…. I definitely want to be able to figure out how to do something about the issues I’ve outlined above. Coming out with a specific plan to do that is critical in having anything be done about it….A lot have people have told me that I’m an emotionally strong person. I want to figure out how to use that strength to impact the world in a positive way.”

We were so touched and inspired by her commitment to help others through something that had affected her so deeply, and were thrilled to be able to help Lia put her dedication to this issue into action to make a difference.

1557389_874022062609593_692424563401849465_o (1)At camp, Lia decided that she wanted to start a club at her school to address the stigma of mental illness. She thought about the best way to frame the issue to get students involved, and, with some input form YEA Camp staff,  Lia launched a Psychology club that has already accomplished so much in such a short time.

“I found a girl at my school interested in co-running it with me, met with some teachers who said they’d love to help me out, and started the club. 82 people ended up signing up!” The club held an assembly in which they showed this short video about teen suicide that Lia made with one of her club members.

10624701_773742302697585_5693713769632370621_nLia’s club also held an inspiring week-long campaign at school to benefit the amazing organization To Write Love on Her Arms, which works to “present hope and find help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.” The club launched the “Fears Vs Dreams” program, where they had students fill out papers of their “fears vs. dreams” to, in Lia’s words, “help convey overcoming your fears to pursue your dreams as well as why no one else can play their part. It helped show people there’s hope and made them think about why they’re special.

And this is only some of what she has done! We are so proud of all Lia has accomplished to raise awareness about this important issue — and this is just in the first few months of school!

When we asked if YEA Camp helped her in this activism, Lia said, “If not for YEA Camp, I wouldn’t have been inspired to start a club fighting against the stigma of mental illness.”

We are honored to have played a role in helping Lia take her efforts to new heights!

If you are as inspired as we are, we hope you’ll contribute to our efforts to expand YEA Camp. Your donation helps us to offer generous scholarships for campers who cannot afford to attend, and helps us reach more young people to advocate for issues they care about, even if they are stigmatized. Each YEA Camper chooses an issue that they are passionate about to make a difference on, and our program helps move them further along from wherever they started to make an even bigger impact.

You can donate here to support our campaign. We so appreciate your support.

Tune in Monday for day 5 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes!

Missed previous days? Here’s Day 1 about Megan in Massachusetts raising money for the homeless, Day 2 showcasing Joyce in New Jersey speaking about about bullying, and Day 3 highlighting Maddie in Colorado advocating for animals.

Know a 12-17 year old who wants to take their passion to the next level? Tell them about YEA Camp and maybe we’ll meet them this summer!

Posted in Activist Profile, Uncategorized, youth activism, Youth Empowered Action | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YEA Camp Hero Day 3: Maddie – A Voice for the Voiceless

Welcome to Day 3 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes! We hope you feel as inspired reading their stories as we feel posting them.

The 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes is part of our end-of-year fundraising campaign, If Not for YEA Camp… to support youth activists developing the skills, confidence and community they need to make a bigger difference on a social justice cause they care about. You can donate here.

Today’s Hero is Maddie, who came to YEA Camp in California this summer all the way from Colorado — thanks to her supportive dad Kent, who came with her to drop her off!

10377455_10153257683459698_2391448624373869766_n (1)Before YEA Camp, Maddie had already gone vegan as well as was a dedicated recycler. In her application, she wrote that she wanted support to put her passion for animal and environmental protection into practice to make an even bigger difference. “I am very interested to take an issue I deeply care about to the next level,” she wrote. “I think with the help of just one other person that I can share my knowledge and concerns with, it’ll be helpful to spread the awareness.”  Well, Maddie has been blowing us away with all she has been up to since YEA Camp!

Here are some highlights:

  • Maddie hosted a screening of the new documentary film “Cowspiracy” at a Colorado movie theater that required selling 75 tickets for the screening to happen. Spearheading this by connecting with local organizations and businesses, passing out flyers, as well as reaching out for YEA Camp’s help promoting the screening, not only did the screening happen, it sold out all 120 tickets!
  • 10849967_620583754737833_8603495999500836530_n (1)Maddie has gotten involved in local events to advocate for animals — from raising awareness about the cruelty of the fur industry to the suffering of animals in circuses, and more. And she spreads compassion with a positive attitude and a smile on her face!
  • Maddie is active in the Teens for Oceans club at her school, which has had a huge success of getting recycling bins in her school.
  • Maddie is currently working on getting more veg options in her school cafeteria through the Meatless Mondays campaign.
  • And a lot more that we left out!

Did we mention that Maddie is 15?!
1909132_754918321212179_8750636728217546572_oMaddie says, “If not for YEA Camp, I would never be doing all the activism I am today. I would have not watched so many documentaries and read/searched to educate myself on animal rights. And I most definitely would have not gone out of my comfort zone and got in touch with my principal to notify her on Meatless Mondays. I wouldn’t have had the responsibility and courage to host ‘Cowspiracy,’ which made so many people understand the effects of meat and why I was vegan, and overall I wouldn’t have been passionate enough to do any activism, but YEA Camp made me realize my passion and I’m so grateful for that.”

We’re sure that Maddie would be doing great things without YEA Camp, but we are thrilled that the skills, confidence, passion, and community that she developed at camp has helped launch her advocacy to new heights!

If you’re inspired by our work, please support it! YEA Camp relies on donations to fully fund our program, and your tax-deductible contribution will help us to reach more young people like Maddie who will benefit from training and encouragement to pursue their passions to make the world a better place.

We so appreciate your continued support. Come back tomorrow for Day 4 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes!

Missed previous posts? Here are Day 1 & Day 2 of our YEA Camp Heroes campaign.

Want to come to YEA Camp this summer? Register at YEACamp.org!

Posted in Activist Profile, Uncategorized, youth activism, Youth Empowered Action | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

YEA Camp Hero Day 2 – Joyce: Standing Up to Bullying

Welcome to Day 2 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes!

Our 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes is part of our end-of-year fundraising campaign, If Not for YEA Camp… When you donate to YEA Camp, your generous contribution enables youth activists to develop the skills, confidence and community they need to make a difference.

10805222_335178216669301_1110266636_n (1)YEA Camper Joyce from New Jersey has been on fire since camp and is a huge inspiration to us!

Joyce came to YEA Camp because she was committed to addressing bullying and trying to create a safe climate at her school. She was honored when her teachers chose her to be one of the school’s peer mediators, and she was enthusiastic for the training she received. Since YEA Camp she’s taken her efforts much further — to address bullying and beyond.

To address bullying at school, Joyce:

  • overcame her nerves and gave presentations in classes at her school about the impact of bullying.
  • organized an assembly at her school to address bullying that included an activity similar to one we do at camp, where campers reflect on their experiences being bullied and being a bully
  • initiated “Mix It Up” Day successfully at her school, where students sit with different people in the cafeteria for the day than they usually do.
  •  created a bullying awareness social media account.

Did we mention that Joyce is 14?

Joyce is also pursuing passions on other issues she cares about, including the environment, poverty, and human rights, and has done soooo much to make a difference on those causes this year. Here are a few highlights:

  • Joyce giving a radio interview.

    Joyce giving a radio interview at the People’s Climate March.

    Joyce found out about the upcoming People’s Climate March in New York at camp when another camper invited people to attend, and so this October Joyce went to her first ever rally. She brought her mom along with her, and had a great experience that included being interviewed by this journalist, as well as by us in this interview.

  • Joyce organized a successful food and clothing drive at her school.
  • Joyce served food to the homeless on Thanksgiving, has passed out leaflets about important causes, and even became a vegetarian.
  • Joyce is a dedicated member of YEA Camp’s Youth Advisory Board, giving her time and energies to help YEA Camp when we need it and to support other campers in their own efforts to make a difference.

Joyce says, “If not for YEA Camp, I wouldn’t have been able to come up with an idea to bring more attention to bullying in my school and actually succeed…. YEA Camp has helped me in my activism by teaching me ways to make a difference. Before YEA Camp, I wanted to be involved with activism and help out, but I truly didn’t know where to start or what exactly to do. Going to YEA Camp taught me many things. How to leaflet, how to table, start a club, campaign, and even more. Today I now know how to, and even have put my skills to use! If it wasn’t for these skills, I never would’ve attempted the things that I’ve done recently…. I honestly wouldn’t have done any of these things without YEA Camp.”

joyceWe actually disagree. We’re sure someone as compassionate, smart, kind, and dedicated as Joyce would be doing great things without YEA Camp, but with the skills she learned, as well as the knowledge, community and confidence she developed at YEA Camp, we are thrilled that Joyce is taking her passions to new heights, and this is just the beginning!

As 2014 comes to a close and are already getting scholarship requests for this summer, we recognize the power your donation has to help young people like Joyce pursue their passion to make our world a better place. Your donation to YEA Camp enable campers like Joyce to speak out about important causes, to make changes in their school and communities, and to influence their peers. How much is that worth? You can contribute here and know you are getting a great return on your investment.

We so appreciate your continued support, and WE LOVE YOU, JOYCE! <3

Tune in tomorrow for Day 3 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes! If you missed Day 1, check it out here.

P.S. Inspired to attend YEA Camp yourself, or to tell another teen about it? Take advantage of our YEA Camp 2015 early bird pricing by reserving your spot now.

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YEA Camp Hero Day 1: Megan – A Helping Hand for the Homeless

Welcome to Day 1 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes!

In yesterday’s post we announced that for the next 12 days, instead of a partridge and a pear tree, we will feature a camper who is doing amazing things to make a difference, and how they say YEA Camp has helped them with their efforts.

The 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes is part of our end-of-year fundraising campaign, If Not for YEA Camp… When you donate to YEA Camp, your generous contribution enables youth activists to develop the skills, confidence and community they need to make a difference.

Our first incredible YEA Camp Hero is 12-year-old Megan from Massachusetts.

meganMegan’s passion is helping the homeless, and we were blown away by her commitment to this cause when we read her application. Upon seeing so many homeless people on a trip she took into Boston, she started making and selling crafts and doing chores to raise money to donate to people in need.

“I’m thinking of going to Boston and personally handing out food gift cards,” she wrote in June. “Although the plan has not yet been totally thought through, I do not want to give the money to a homeless shelter, because I feel that giving these people a gift, from me to them, is just priceless. I want to let them know that somebody cares about them.” We told her that our staff got teary-eyed reading her application.

Since attending YEA Camp this summer, we are thrilled that Megan has taken her efforts to new 10689826_1564661593766131_7177509951565864834_nheights. Megan started a school club called Helping Hands for the Homeless and gotten many of her friends and others to join. For their first fundraiser, they realized several of their members love photography and they created this calendar with their photos and inspirational quotes to sell at school and in their communities.

Holding to her personalized approach, the club is using the money they raise to make kits they will give out that include warm socks, a toothbrush and tooth paste, food gift card, a public transportation pass, and information about local job training programs. So far, the club has raised over $2,00o (and counting)!

7359_10153103663224698_2080961949964019024_nDid we mention that Megan is 12?

As part of our “If Not For YEA” Camp-aign, we asked Megan what difference YEA Camp made for her, and perhaps what would be different in her activism if not for attending.

Megan says, “If not for YEA Camp, I wouldn’t have the awesome action plan and awareness of the different problems in this world. If not for YEA Camp I wouldn’t be starting this club because I wouldn’t know how to, or what to do when I started it. If not for YEA Camp I would not have the motivation to continue, and even start, my club. I also wouldn’t have had the idea to use photography in my activism. I also wouldn’t have made all the amazing friends who are now like family, without attending YEA Camp. I’m so glad I went because now I have a homeless-helping plan planned out for the whole year!”

We are so thrilled to have helped Megan on her path to help people in need!

Your support of YEA Camp enables youth like Megan to take their passions to the next level, to build their confidence, connect with a supportive community, and develop organizational skills to affect change on a social justice issue that they care about. YEA Camp would not be possible without our supporters. Please make a tax-deductible donation to help us expand our work!

We appreciate your continued support! Tune in tomorrow for Day 2 of 12 Days of YEA Camp Heroes! And if you are 12-17 and want to make a difference (or you know someone who is), we hope to meet you at YEA Camp this summer!

Posted in Activist Profile, Uncategorized, youth activism, Youth Empowered Action | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ana’s YEA Camp Story Inspires on #GivingTuesday

We’ve been asking campers this month to share with us their “YEA Camp story” so we can better capture the difference YEA Camp makes. And with the dreary weather and long period of time till next summer, to help keep the spirit of camp alive for all of us!

Here is Ana’s inspiring story.

We are so proud of Ana’s amazing activism and thrilled to be playing a role in her efforts.

We will be sharing more of these stories and hope they inspire other activist-minded youth to join us next summer, and for more people to donate toward our scholarship fund, which helps campers like Ana be able to attend YEA Camp even if their family can’t afford it.

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This #ThankfulThursday Thanksgiving, YEA Camp Is Thankful for Tofurky!

tofurky_feast
As part of our #ThankfulThursdays series, we thought it was only fitting to express our gratitude on this Thanksgiving Thursday to Tofurky – a company whose delicious vegan meals are providing an alternative for people around the country today who want to spare turkeys from suffering in order for people to give thanks. And a company that has supported YEA Camp from the beginning!

10522465_10153056321229698_6210808081447660525_nFrom our first year in 2009, when we had no history, no testimonials or pictures or proof for parents that the camp would be amazing, we were basically begging for campers to attend. Most of them were on large scholarships or came for free. We had no funding, and our staff all volunteered. Part of what made it possible for us to run the camp was getting in-kind donations from food suppliers, and nobody was more generous than Tofurky.

1175137_10151973009608646_430291806_nStill today, as demand for our camps has grown, in-kind donations help us keep our prices down and enable us to offer generous financial aid to those who need it.

Every year, Tofurky has supplied us with such generous amounts of deli slices at each of our sessions that our first few years we actually “paid” our staff in leftover Tofurky! Our campers love it, and they also love that Tofurky supplies us with super fun temporary tattoos and Tofurky logo t-shirts with the lovable Tofurky logo.

Tofurky is an ethical, sustainable, socially responsible company whose very existence makes it easier and more delicious to be vegetarian – on Thanksgiving and everyday – and spares millions of animals a life of misery on a factory farm. We couldn’t be more grateful to have their support and to serve their products at YEA Camp.

Thank you, Tofurky!

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