In 2015, I had the awesome experience of spending a weekend retreat camping at Camp Friedenswald with a handful of urban, at-risk youth. At first, they were all trepidatious about the occasion inquiring about the bugs, the food, and getting their hair wet among other trivial concerns. Most of these young ladies had never been camping or too far outside of their South Bend neighborhoods. The focus of this retreat was leadership development and goal-setting for the upcoming school year. Not only were students able to participate in several leadership and teamwork activities, testing their ability to cooperate and communicate, but these young ladies also had an opportunity to assess their future goals and fears in an environment free from judgment and ridicule.
Many of these young ladies, had personal breakthroughs in regard to their personal and educational goals. To my surprise, these young ladies had never had the opportunity to dream their wildest dreams because, simply, no one bothered to ask them or expected them to do much. These resilient young ladies jointly had experienced more adversity than most adults I know; including the death or incarceration of a parent, teenage homelessness and physical and/or sexual abuse at the hands of a trusted adult. But what became more evident through this retreat than their adversity was their capacity to still have hope and dreams for their future.
The young ladies who attended this trip shared their awesome experiences with their peers and have endeavored to plan another summer retreat. This idea is not awesome in the innovative way that you might expect, but what’s awesome about it is the fact that it’s student-led. Which is evidence to the fact that even the students we label as troublesome or difficult have the capacity to be leaders within their schools and neighborhoods. This awesome idea is about supporting and encouraging that innate potential toward the betterment and future of South Bend!
Funded by South Bend, IN (November 2017)