The Hands4Hope Education Program staff, with the help of the Hands4Hope Youth Board Executive Committee, designed and facilitated two virtual retreats for more than sixty middle and high school youth leaders! Both retreats, A Great Time to Be Alive and The Show Must Go On, were designed in theme and energy to continue with our approach to moving forward during the COVID-19 pandemic!
A Great Time to Be Alive was the first retreat and we welcomed thirty youth leaders from seven local high schools. Everyone joined the retreat wearing costumes from different time periods. The team building game that ran throughout the retreat was for each school club and committee team to give and take note of clues from other teams related to everyone's undisclosed time period. From the Victorian era to the 1990’s, and a lot in between, there were many creative costumes. Oak Ridge Hands4Hope Club Vice President Bella Hsueh shared “I loved the energy throughout the retreat! I could tell how much time and effort went into planning it through all the fun games and activities we did”.
In addition to the costume fun, youth leaders had time to work in their school teams to reflect on year-to-date successes and challenges, as well as collaborate with peers to review their own progress on personal leadership goals. Finally, we welcomed volunteer guest
speaker Sara Warden, executive assistant to the Waste Connections Chairman of the Board, who facilitated a workshop on professional marketing. The workshop further introduced youth leaders to Canva, a graphic design platform used to create social media graphics, presentations, and other visual content. It also covered the importance of branding materials, as well as how to create a timeline for marketing service projects on social media. According to Hands4Hope Youth Board Vice President Pavitra Dobaria, ”Planning and participating in the mid year retreat with Hands4Hope high school leaders this year was so much fun and such a great experience for me! Everyone adjusted so well with this year's situation and having to make it online, and it felt very productive and engaging...I loved to be able to reconnect with leaders I haven’t seen or spoken to in a while, and see how they’ve grown as leaders and what their clubs have accomplished! Clubs are adjusting well to online meetings and it was interesting to see all the creativity of the other leaders!”
Next up was the middle school retreat, The Show Must Go On, where we welcomed thirty-one youth leaders from six local middle schools. For this retreat, each school team tuned in
wearing a costume from a Netflix or Disney+ show. Following the same concept of the high school retreat, clues were given and received throughout the event. One participant shared, “I really enjoyed the costume competition and being able to piece together the clues to try to figure out each tv show.” They were so creative portraying shows with a retro feel like Stranger Things, Scooby Doo and Wanda Vision, as well as shows set in more modern times like Cobra Kai, Parks and Recreation, and, of course, the Mandalorian.
The five high school leaders who volunteered to be middle school mentors facilitated the half day middle school retreat by dividing it into several workshops designed to allow the youth leaders to reflect on their successes and challenges, evaluate their team collaborations and make new leadership goals for the second half of the year. In addition, the high school facilitators reworked the marketing workshop presented during the high school retreat and presented a two part workshop that covered the basics of branding for flyer creation, as well as how to author a professionally written email to a local business professional. Herbert Green Hands4Hope Club Secretary Sopia Hinchliffe shared, “I learned the preferred fonts, colors, and logos to use; this will help me if I need to create something for my club on Canva. I really enjoyed going into breakout rooms with other people to talk about what fantasy world we would live in if we could, we decided on The Maze Runner…”
Hands4Hope staff and youth leaders have worked hard through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure participating youth still have the opportunity to learn about their community and design and implement service projects to fill unmet needs. At our midway point through the program year, Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference youth-led clubs and committees have already completed 20 service projects, raised $9,767, and collected 2,220 items and 3,623 pounds of food.