Last weekend, YO S.O.S. went on its first ever retreat, which was dedicated to strengthening bonds in the group and preparing for the community organizing the youth organizers will do in the spring. The group did activities focus on unity and relationship building. In addition, they strategized and planned their spring community organizing project, Arts To End Violence.
20 youth organizers and 4 staff members traveled by bus to Camp Vacamas in New Jersey for group activities. On the first night of the retreat every teen shared a personal object that was important to them. Some people shared pictures or drawings other shared things connected with family members living and those that passed. This activity allowed the Youth Organizers a chance to share aspects of their identity and history. It was a time for each person to understand more about each others similarities and differences. Afterwards we went outside in the freezing temperatures to sing some silly camp songs around a fire.
The next day consisted of an outdoor challenge course, a facilitation and organizing training to get them ready for Arts to End Violence, and games in which they shared facts about themselves to get to know each other better. The youth organizers practiced their communication and teamwork skills in big group games, including team skipping rope, a tire zip line, and obstacle courses.
At the end of the weekend, many organizers said they felt closer to each other, had built trust within the group, and were able to open themselves up and make new friends. Helen Dupree, Youth Organizer, said, "The retreat gave me a chance to get to know everyone and build a stronger relationship while planing what we will be doing for Yosos in these next few months. Knowing that I have supporting & determine peers is a wonderful feeling. I'm looking forward to these next few month."
The Youth Organizers challenged themselves to step out of their comfort zones. It was a heartwarming and amazing experience for the staff to be a part of, and many of the youth organizers are still sharing stories in person (and on facebook) about what it meant to them. YOUTH POWER!