by Kyarie Shelton
Hello, my name is Kyarie Shelton. I just recently graduated from Pike High School and will be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall. For the past two or three years, I have participated in Social Justice Leadership Camp. In the Summer of 2019, I was a participant in the camp. This camp opened my eyes to issues that I was unaware of. As an African American female, I knew from my own experiences of racial and gender inequalities; however, through this camp, I learned about mental health disparities, the wealth gap, sexuality inequalities, and the injustices that other people of color face. This camp not only explores the inequality of marginalized groups of people on a surface/street level, but it dives into the institutions and ideologies that keep the marginalized groups oppressed.
The structure of the camp is as unique as the wonderful woman running it. Although our days are scheduled, Clare allows the participants to speak freely, even if it deviates a bit from the topic at hand. Clare creates a safe haven for opinions to be heard, and more importantly, respected. Clare treats us all as family and makes sure to incorporate light-hearted days throughout the program to even out the intense discussions.
During the Summer of 2020, I was invited back to be a facilitator, and I facilitated throughout the 2020-2021 school year. It was an amazing experience, touching the lives of many youths, the way Clare touched mine. 2020 was especially hard for me as an African American due to all of the police brutality occurrences. Although I wanted to protest, my parents saw too much potential danger, and I was not allowed to do so. I found facilitating to be one of my ways of giving back to the community. That is another wonderful thing about the camp, you realize all the different ways to promote change. My entire experience being a part of the Social Justice Leadership Camp has been astonishing. I now stand firm in my beliefs, and I stand up for others.