by Clare Wildhack-Nolan, Director of Social Justice Leadership Camp
For the past 5 years, March has been the exciting time of year where I begin sharing with the community the opportunity for Indy teens to participate in Social Justice Leadership Camp. It feels amazing to be able to offer teens the kind of experience that I wished I had had when I was their age. As a teenager in Indianapolis, who already had strong values around human rights and the environment, I was in a constant state of learning and critically analyzing the hypocrisy I felt the adult world dished out. My identity and search for friendships and mentors was tied to my desire to address the pain in the world.
Unfortunately, there was not a lot to choose from. Indianapolis was very segregated then as it is now, and I only knew the opportunity my small section offered, and only had those conversations with my classmates and a close knit group of friends. It would have been amazing to have a diverse group of teens from across the city to meet with and hear their perspectives. It would have been amazing to connect with adults who could listen and understand, and encourage me, complicating and connecting the information and experience I was grappling with. In those formative years, it would have been amazing to connect with people who I wouldn’t have met any other way, and become a little family of friends.
I love Social Justice Leadership Camp because it is that. It is a space where teens experience having a voice and being a part of an experience that acts and feels in socially just ways, as well as talks about it. And that is rare.
This year’s camp will pull together up to 20 teens, and build their critical thinking and power analyzing skills on topics of social justice (self as a leader, and age, economic, racial, gender and sexuality,disability justice, and how it plays out in our lives, how we care for ourselves, and action planning). Through the year we meet up monthly to support and continue to connect around these issues.
Last years group is planning and fundraising for a trip to Chicago to visit youth organizing projects and community empowerment work. The past campers come back and stay connected to camp. They stay engaged in work at their home schools and broaden their scope. Past campers are serving on school council boards, participating as poets in community pride events, organizing fellow youth around important issues, going to tutoring, and are active in international Social Justice work and fellowships, as well as college-based work around social justice.
Youth are powerful leaders. I would love to see them asked to be a part of a PLC youth advisory board, and to be able to offer small stipends to engage even more teens, who often need money and have to prioritize work over the summer. Please help us raise enough money to sustain and expand this program. For information about donating, helping provide meals for camp, or getting involved email firstname.lastname@example.org