The Hands4Hope-Youth Making a Difference Youth Leadership Mid-Year Retreats were a huge success! Thirty high school and twenty-five middle school Hands4Hope club and committee leaders from 14 schools and 4 committees came together on January 22nd and February 5th, respectively, to participate in Jurassic Park…Don’t Become Extinct Mid-Year Retreats. Both retreats were held at California Montessori Project (CMP) in Shingle Springs. In an effort to ensure all youth were included, the retreats were hybrid, 9-12pm in-person and 1-3pm on Zoom. This created a safety net in case any youth leaders may have been in quarantine with COVID, they could still participate in a good portion of the event, while also hosting an in-person option to maximize team building time. The goals for the retreats were to build on skills taught at leadership camp in the areas of service-learning and marketing and branding, while also providing time for leadership team check-ins, personal goal review, and of course fun team building!
We had five staff and nine youth leaders who collaboratively planned and facilitated the retreat. The Education Team and the Youth Board Executive Committee worked in three committees to plan these retreats: Team Building and Goals; Marketing and Branding; and How to Effectively Create a Service-Learning Demonstration Project. On average each youth leader contributed about five hours to the planning of these retreats in addition to 2 hours of facilitation. Mishti Shah, Oak Ridge Hands4Hope Club-Inspire Vice President shared “It was super fun facilitating the camp, I learned a lot about what goes into planning an event like this.”
The planning team worked hard to design all of the activities with purpose and engagement in mind. The overall feedback from youth participants was that the event was both helpful and fun. A crowd favorite was the Lego building activity. This activity was designed by youth leaders Mishti Shah (Oak Ridge) and Jennifer Cole (Vista Del Lago) to give each leadership team the opportunity to practice communication and collaboration skills. Each team had to use their strengths to identify one leader for each of the following roles: supply gatherer, designer, communicator, builder and presenter. The leader in each role had to work with the team to bring the designers concept to life with the Legos the supply gatherer chose. “I really liked the Lego activity because it helped me understand each person on my team more,” said one middle school leader, “and use teamwork to get the project done.”
It was very important to youth leaders and staff that no leader was left behind during the retreats! For leaders unable to attend the in-person portion of the retreat we used iPads to Zoom them in so they could still participate. When asked what her favorite part of the retreat was, Samantha Mitchell, Union Mine Hands4Hope Club Treasurer, shared “Being included on Zoom at the in-person event, everyone took turns with the iPad.”
Despite the challenges we faced due to COVID, with an 86% attendance rate these were some of the highest attended mid-year retreats to date. We would not have had such successful events without the help of the community and some fantastic volunteers! On behalf of all of the Hands4Hope Staff and Youth Leaders, we would like to thank Principal Kim Zawilski and the rest of the CMP staff for the use of their campus for both retreats! Another HUGE Thank You to those who volunteered to help with our pancake breakfast! Thank you Dolly Wagner for leading this effort and to Andrea Howard, Jennifer Bassett, Robyn Parker, Jeff England, Gordon Helm, Christa Campbell and Margaret Lewis for making and serving us breakfast!
“Thank you for organizing this! I enjoyed it immensely and it will help a lot in my upcoming meetings!”
~ Hands4Hope Middle School Leader