By YEA Camper Andrew Puccetti
When I first heard about Youth Empowered Action Camp, I thought it was too good to be true. According to the website, this was a camp that teaches campers how they can make a difference in the world, and all the food is vegan. How perfect can this camp get? I’d heard about it countless times from many nonprofit organizations and activists I know, but when I finally browsed the website, I was inspired. I knew right away that this was the camp for me, and that I had to attend. I realized that this could be a life-altering experience, and I would miss out if I didn’t get to go.
After convincing my parents to let me attend, I was finally ready to start the process of fundraising. At YEA Camp, when awarded a scholarship, they encourage campers to fundraise part of their tuition. This is a valuable activism skill and helps them award scholarships to additional campers in need of financial resources. I was lucky that I had one organization fund almost my entire tuition (if you don’t know of them, check out Rooterville Animal Sanctuary) and was so happy to be able to attend camp. The only action left to do was to count down the days until camp!
When it was finally time to leave for camp, I had no idea that I was about to embark on one of the best weeks of my life. We drove seventeen hours from Chicago to attend the Massachusetts session and it could not have been more worth it. Upon walking in and being greeted, I felt automatically welcome and comfortable. Everyone had an obvious air of acceptance and kinship. When I arrived, I jumped right into name games, and later our first workshop.
Every single day was filled with different thought-provoking, fun, and interesting workshops. YEA Camp’s curriculum focuses on developing four key areas: knowledge, skills, confidence, and community. And yes, we learned just that. From grassroots outreach, to communication, every single camper learned different tactics for how they can make a difference in the world.
Along with this, we also had to chance to learn about many different social justice issues that we had no knowledge about prior to camp. There were a variety of issues represented among my fellow campers and each person received the opportunity to share what they are passionate about. Because of this, since returning from camp, I’ve changed many of my daily habits.
At camp, we learned to ignore the little voice in our head that is affecting our activism negatively. Each limiting belief that we have about ourselves was created from a prior experience we have had in our lives. We discovered that we should push past these beliefs and focus on what we are good at to become better activists. This was a particularly helpful workshop for me, as it has helped me very much in my activism since.
At YEA Camp, I quickly realized that you are never hungry. They have cooks in the kitchen preparing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks each day. The food was always beautifully prepared and absolutely delicious. Throughout my camp experience, I actually got to the point that I would look forward, my mouth watering at the thought, to each meal. Being a vegan before camp also made me appreciate that all food at YEA Camp is cruelty-free. They don’t just talk the talk of compassion, they walk the walk. Many of the campers who came to camp were not veg upon arrival and loved the food anyway. In fact, many walked away wanting to go vegan or vegetarian. YEA Camp inspires compassion!
I came to camp not really sure if I would make any friends, but quickly realized on the first day I would make bonds that would last a lifetime. When coming into camp, you can feel the love in the air! Throughout our week, we shared laughter, tears, and experiences that we will remember forever. Everybody did nothing but support each other, as can be seen by the filled up appreciation posters on the wall (mine is now hanging on my bedroom wall). There are no cliques at camp, and I felt like I can walk into anyone’s conversation and become included right away. I became so close to these people, and was able to tell them anything without fear of being judged. These are friends I will never forget, and friends like no other.
Because of YEA Camp, I will never be the same. I grew so much as both a person and a change-maker, and since camp, have felt even more confident than I already was. I am so grateful for the week I had and the people I met. I’ve been inspired in a whole new way. What I learned will carry on with me my throughout my entire life and activism career. Because of YEA Camp, I am a changed person. I feel like I finally know what it truly means to be an activist.