In late July, we were able to take 5 teens — 3 from Central High School, and 2 from Goffstown High — to a 4-day leadership camp experience for the first time. We provided matching funds for scholarships for empowerYOUTH! members to attend, and sent one of our staff members down to RI with the teens where the event was taking place, at Bryant University. Special thanks to Crispin’s House, GHS, & CHS for helping to spread the word about this opportunity and provide some funding to ensure the 5 teens were able to attend.
We heard great things about the Youth to Youth experience, but weren’t sure what to expect. What would the set up be like? How did they choose who you would dorm with? We knew we would be learning facts about substance misuse prevention and leadership skills to bring home, but did that mean we’d sit in a classroom all day? Most importantly, would we have ANY fun?
The conference exceeded our expectations and more! We learned so many new skills about leadership and helpful tips to bring back to our coalition to share with our peers and the staff that sent us on this journey. But best of all, we made a huge network of brand new friends, who share our same interests and passions in life. It was incredible to see over 600 teens come together on the Bryant University campus who held the same values and beliefs we did about substance misuse prevention and creating positive change to build healthier communities. Our youth returned exhausted from very full days that began at 8am and ended around 11pm.
The best part of Youth to Youth, according to our 5 teens who attended, was that even though the conference was very large, they felt a true sense of community. Aron and Josue commented about how it was incredible to see such diversity of culture and backgrounds in the youth they met. “I wasn’t the only Latino, for once!” remarked Josue. Ashlynn, Kathryn, and Cat discussed how living in NH, they don’t often get the opportunity to leave their bubble of school and regional friends who share their interest of empowering their peers to live healthy lifestyles. At Youth to Youth, there were hundreds of them, all from their own coalitions, all working on similar initiatives to build a healthy, informed generation.
“I met a girl who is now my best friend,” said Kathryn. The others agreed. Everyone gained incredible peer support from like-minded peers, and left with new friends for life! When asked if we should do this again, the answer was unanimous: YES! 1000%! To hear more from a participant, Josue, about his experience at Youth to Youth please visit our podcast page. The youth we brought to RI are calling this the “best experience this summer,” and we are looking forward to these young empowerYOUTH! leaders to bring their new skills back to our group as well as their schools and communities!