On July 20-26, 2008, twenty young people age 13-19 and six adult allies from nine organizations across the region came to Highlander for the ninth annual Seeds of Fire Youth Leadership Camp.
This year’s camp built on Highlander’s ongoing work on education and juvenile justice issues and was co-sponsored by Highlander, the Gathering for Justice, and the Community Justice Network for Youth.
Participants shared organizing strategies, leadership skills, and information about how to change the education and juvenile justice systems and move toward a model of restorative justice at the local, state, and national levels. They also explored alternative economic policies and systems that are people- and community-centered, not profit-centered, and made connections among issues locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.
The curriculum also included a two-day core nonviolence training. This training gave the participants a comprehensive introduction to Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy, thinking and strategy, and provided a framework for conflict reconciliation/management, mediation, and arbitration.
Sessions at the camp utilized a variety of popular education techniques, including large and small group discussions, music, art, and performances. The camp was designed as a “training for trainers,” so a strong emphasis was placed on preparing participants to lead similar sessions in their home communities, and on providing materials to help them in this effort.
Feedback from the camp was extremely positive. On the final day of the camp, participants filled out evaluation forms that asked, in part, “How will this camp help your group?” Their responses included the following:
- “It will help us to organize and build a foundation for our group so that we can build up and reach out.”
- “It helps me to be more outspoken and build leadership skills and with that I make my group push harder.”
- “Gives you a good way to think of other ways to solve a problem in the community.”
During the coming months, Highlander staff will continue working with the Seeds of Fire camp participants in their own organizations and communities.