Guest Post: Memories of YEA Camp NJ - A Humane Educator's Dream

Even the YEA camp living quarters portrayed the message
of kindness and compassion. The room I stayed in
was the “Peace” room.
This guest post is by Nicole Green, Director of Animalearn, the education division of the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS)

Youth Empowered Action Camp, which was held for the first time on the east coast in Lanoka Harbor, New Jersey, was a life changing experience for me.  As an educational facilitator at YEA NJ, I had the opportunity to enlighten budding young activists about my own personal experience as an animal activist and as the Director of Animalearn, working to help end the use of animals in research, testing, and education. 

In the span of one week, I bonded with a group of people who not only are compassionate, but also will always remain dear to my heart. I was inspired by everyone I encountered, from the dedicated staff, to the young individuals who were passionate about a variety of issues, from animal rights to autism awareness. My experience at YEA camp was rewarding in many ways, but it especially helped to reassure myself that even though we are in a world that is in crisis on many fronts, there are young people today, like the ones I met at YEA camp, who are the future changemakers of tomorrow. 

I was referred to YEA camp by Institute for Humane Education (IHE) staff, while searching for a final Independent Study project to complete my Masters in Education and Innovation with an emphasis in Humane Education. Being at YEA camp was a humane educator’s dream, because everyone was on the same page – everyone cared about and wanted to DO SOMETHING. They simply needed the tools and words of encouragement to enable them to be seasoned activists. 

What is most rewarding about the YEA camp experience is that it doesn’t end. We continually reconnect via online and with regular conference calls to keep up to date on each others' activities and to support and inspire those who may be facing challenges. I would recommend that humane educators consider being a part of YEA camp – to inspire oneself and to make a difference in the lives of the youth of today.

Read more about my personal journey at YEA Camp NJ depicted in the picture gallery below (all images courtesy Nicole Green and Tracy Albernaz):

Before camp started I participated in YEA
camp staff training where Buttercup (seen here)
was proud to be our YEA camp mascot.

Spread throughout the YEA camp venue hung inspirational and
motivational quotes and community building ideas.

One morning we all woke up to see confidence
building quotes written on the mirrors of the girls
dorm bathrooms. This mirror reads,
“You are amazing, talented, smart and strong.”

On day one of camp everyone (including staff) had
to make appreciation posters so that throughout the
week we could all have a chance to write
some positive messages about each other.

I had the opportunity to meet some truly
amazing people at YEA camp. Here Eileen
Botti (our phenomenal vegan chef) and Chris
Kudrich (our medical professional) proudly
showcase the Animalearn “Dissection Doesn’t
Cut It” stickers that I brought for camp.

Part of the community building experience at YEA
camp involved helping out in the kitchen.

Eileen wowed everyone at camp with her amazing
vegan culinary skills. A running joke that we had in camp was
a humorous reference in The Meatrix,, a short video which
educates, entertains, and motivates people to advocate for
animals in factory farms. To find out the line this cake
references in The Meatrix, click here

The YEA Camp curriculum gave campers the opportunity
to be exposed to a variety of activities that allowed them to
work collaboratively while using their critical thinking skills
and creativity. Here groups worked together on an
Arts Activism project called a Mandala.

Here is the completed Mandala project that gave
campers the opportunity to visually depict their
perfect future world.

As part of the YEA camp experience, campers are encouraged
to focus on an “Issue of Importance” or IOI and create action
plans in order to tackle that issue once they leave camp. In order
to help them with challenges that they may face, several camp
staff are serving as mentors. I am honored to be working with
four passionate and dedicated young people who want to make
a difference on many topics including factory farming and
veganism, endangered species, and autism awareness.

Molly (left) is one of my mentees and she wants to enlighten
others about the benefits of a vegan diet. Mack is a vibrant
young man who wants to raise awareness about autism.

Budding activists Julia (left) and Noah and Jasmine
with Nicole (center). Jasmine (far right) testified on behalf of
the Connecticut Dissection Choice Bill, which has not passed yet
but Animalearn is still working to make this a reality
for Connecticut students like Jasmine
who want to take a stand and opt out of dissection.

I made lifelong friends, including YEA Camp staffer
Kassinda Campbell.


YEA Camp NJ in Action

(Editor's note: We've written about YEA Camp before here, here and here.)

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