Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Prepares Youth to Lead Peers Through Program Year Plagued by the Pandemic
Written by Madisen Berry, Ponderosa High School Senior and
Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Youth Board Public Relations Coordinator
Even though this year has been tough, Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference pulled through with amazing leadership camps for both middle and high school youth. The camp, themed A World of Possibilities, was a COVID-safe in-person camp. This year both camps were held at the serene and shady property The Davies Family Inn at Shadowridge Ranch in Placerville. This site is a beautiful event destination with many amenities which helped to successfully conduct a safe outdoor camp. The camps were designed to welcome new, and catch up with returning leaders through a series of workshops and team building activities. Together, the Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Youth Board Executive Committee and the Education Program staff helped create these camps with team builds, breakout sessions, and other fun activities. A total of fifty-six leaders were in attendance, representing 14 local schools from Folsom to Placerville.
Camp is held once a year, and is a time for leaders to get to know their leadership team, learn how to be an effective leader, and get to know their own leadership skills. Before the pandemic, camps took place at Coloma Resort and Outdoor Discovery School. In 2020, camp was a hybrid of in-person and online, and, this year, the youth were lucky enough to have a full in-person camp. The A World of Possibilities theme was the perfect way to inspire and motivate leaders for the transition to in-person meetings and activities. Together, leaders from each school learned how to work together, lead meetings, start a club, and create an efficient work plan for their upcoming service-learning projects.
As a six-time Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference camp participant, I can say that learning how to work with your school’s leadership team is one of the most important skills you can learn at camp, and it actually turns out to be really fun. One leader even stated that “my favorite part [of camp] was being able to connect with my table group and other Hands4Hope participants through the games and icebreaker activities.” Being able to work well with your team and communicate effectively is crucial to being a Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference leader. A few activities, like the Invisible Maze and the Spaghetti Marshmallow Team Build, helped the leaders learn how to use their communication skills to achieve a goal. The Communication Breakout Session also helped leaders learn how to communicate professionally, whether it be email, text, zoom, or in-person.
Breakout Sessions on Service-Learning and Leading Your Peers were used to help new and experienced leaders learn how to plan and conduct a meeting, and each leader group held a mock meeting to practice. These were learning experiences, but they were also fun. One leader wrote, “I liked the mock leadership meeting...because as leaders we are learning how to work with our team.” They were able to be creative while practicing their leadership skills in a hands-on way.
An additional objective of high school leaders for camp is to participate in an activity that requires self reflection and getting out of their comfort zone. Therefore, the last day of camp was spent at Quarry Adventure Park in Rocklin. This provided a great learning experience for individual leaders, as well as school teams. They were able to work through obstacles and face fears together. This may seem like an unconventional approach to leading, but it was a great bonding as well as a learning experience. One leader reflected on the day: “At Quarry Park, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I had a lot of fun. This is a great way to make bonds that will last throughout the year, and it’s fun!”
This camp was made possible by the efforts of the Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Education Program Staff and the Executive Youth Board. The four adults and nine youth worked hard to plan all of the activities and workshops for both the middle school and high school camps. It was also important to the leaders that locally owned restaurants, Gulartes Deli, Paco’s Mexican Cuisine and Teriyaki Domo, were used to order daily lunches.. Due to lack of appropriate COVID resources to safely host the camp indoors, the team had to be innovative. Taking the high outdoor temperatures into consideration, games were planned and designed to cool off the leaders while staying focused on skill-building.
Grace Brasil, Youth Board Vice President shared “ After camp I feel more confident with my leadership skills. Being an executive youth board leader during camp, I had to present to middle schoolers as well as high schoolers. In doing so, I was able to become more comfortable speaking in front of different audiences while also keeping them entertained....”
I have been to camp for six years, but this was my first year planning and facilitating at camp. I had the privilege to help plan and facilitate all of the Team Builds and fun games, and it was an amazing experience. I learned more as a leader as well as continued my journey in leadership in Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference. It was amazing to not only get to know the Executive Youth Board better, but also to get to know all of the middle school and high school leaders before the school year starts.