Leadership Camp: Day 3
Day 3 started early like every day at camp with clear skies, and groggy teens and coaches. After the previous day of rain the sun was here to stay. Despite the long days of multiple workouts, writing assignments, and intense and often emotional moments as the kids share their life stories with each other, the mess hall and breakfast time was filled with cheerful greetings.
After just three days, the atmosphere of hesitation and awkwardness that was present, had vanished. These teens from all over the country were just recently thrown together, but now they were a team. They were friends. They were family. On this day, they put it all to the test on the military obstacle course and leadership reaction course.
In preparation the coaches read out the day's schedule and discussed safety, hydration, bug spray, and sunscreen. Then, everyone loaded up in the vans and trucked across the military base. The obstacle course is meant to test their physical limits and with several complicated, very tall wooden structures, it does that and more. The athletes were all different sizes, different physical abilities, and ages ranging from 12 to 20. Their ability to conquer the obstacles ranged as well. Some of them couldn't climb a rope and some were scared of heights, some were bigger and had a hard time climbing and jumping from object to object. The littlest one, Aiden, sometimes couldn't even reach the next log or handhold but he just kept smiling. They all cheered each other on and no one gave up.
The Leadership Reaction Course was a different type of obstacle. This was a task testing their ability to communicate, lead, form plans, and follow instruction. Sometimes, the tasks are meant to test your ability to accept failure. In many ways it was more difficult than the physically grueling obstacle course. These are kids that have frequently come from turbulent homes where healthy communication is unheard of, and very rarely have they been in a true leadership role. Some of them shine, showing such confidence it is stunning, but some of them struggle. The frustrations of not being able to clearly express their ideas or understand and act out the ideas of their peers and hours under the brutal sun took their toll, but these teens aren't like many other teens. They are tough. They are resilient. They are grateful to be there. And when tempers flared, and emotions boil, they worked through it. They opened up to the coaches about their frustrations and moved on with a smile. As the day ended everyone headed back to the mess hall to relax, unwind, and hash out the day with each other.
Sharing circle that night was different. A couple of the coaches shared their personal stories and then we divided the kids into groups of 4 and asked them to express whatever they were feeling or thinking about in art, any kind of art, a drawing, a short story, a poem, or maybe even music. They jumped on it. One kid, Alvin, got out his drum sticks that he takes everywhere. Luiz, from Colorado, wrote a beautiful poem comparing his feelings to the ocean. Terrell, from Philly, created a paper fortune teller that had some of his life decisions written on the different flaps. Francisco, from Camden, drew a picture of his cousin that was killed. Teens that hadn't opened up before wrote and wrote and drew stories of some of the things they had seen. These are the greatest moments of camp!
Providing these exceptional teens a safe environment to express themselves about the past, present, and future, is one of the best experiences I've ever had. Their stories break your heart! Again and again, I am shocked by some of the horrifying things they've gone through when in front of me I see this sweet, funny, hard working kid. I say this every year, but if I could just bottle up a piece of camp for everyone to see and feel, the world would be a better place. I hope this blog gives you a glimmer. Day 3 is in the books! Every other day I know will be just as amazing!
Steve's Club Nashville