“During the field trip to Sky Zone, I remember thinking it would be impossible to get 70 girls to take their shoes off, put the socks on, and get ready to play. But we all worked together and we got it done,” Anna, a first year Youth Leader, remembers. Making the seemingly impossible happen isn’t in the job description for the Rise N’ Shine Youth Leaders, but it is definitely something they can now add to their resume. This summer, 25 Youth Leaders assisted AFG staff in hosting the Prevention Department’s annual Rise N’ Shine summer camp. The camp, for girls between the ages of 4-14 living in Southwest Detroit, is designed to allow the participants to learn new skills, improve their literacy, and make new friends, all in a fun and welcoming environment.
The Youth Leaders, all between the ages of 16-24, had to have a 2.5 or higher Grade Point Average, be currently enrolled in school, and possess leadership skills to be hired for the job. “I decided to apply to become a Youth Leader because I love working with kids and being a mentor to them,” Kiara, another first year Youth Leader, shares. In addition to receiving a weekly stipend, the Youth Leaders also participated in weekly trainings on topics such as CPR/First Aid, conflict resolution, financial literacy and more. These topics prepared them for issues they may face during the camp while also helping to improve and increase valuable employability skills, such as time management. “Getting the girls from being active to having to sit down and eat lunch was hard, but learning to manage my time made it easier,” Anna shares.
A typical day for the Youth Leaders started at 8am with breakfast. Working with AFG staff, the Youth Leaders helped prepare and serve breakfast, check each camper in as they arrived, and then got the girls ready for their first workshop of the day. Some of the workshops this year included cooking, arts and crafts, reading, chemistry, and gardening. After guiding the participants to their workshops, the Youth Leaders provided support to each workshop facilitator by taking participants to the bathroom, running errands, and making sure each girl is participating and having fun. “Participating in the workshops with the girls inspires them to get more involved, talk about what they are learning, and come up with ideas for things. It also makes them feel more at home,” Kiara explains. When it is time for lunch, Youth Leaders helped prepare and serve the food until it was time to take the participants to their afternoon workshops. At the end of the day, they helped serve a snack while checking out each girl as they leave to go home.
The fast-paced environment allowed each Youth Leader to work on the skills they learned during their trainings, such as communication. “I have improved my communication skills with the younger girls. Because they take everything literally, you have to be careful what you say so you don’t have a misunderstanding,” Kiara shares. Of course, challenges arose as well. One of the things the Youth Leaders had to overcome was learning how to work together as such a large team. “It was really interesting to see all the different sides of the other Leaders. It has been hard at times, but by the end, everyone was more comfortable and we all bonded,” Anna remembers, smiling. This teamwork allowed them to execute another successful, exciting summer of Rise N’ Shine.