The Camp Ayandeh and Camp Javan experiences are in full swing during IAAB’s first session of both youth programs. After a rousing evening of introductions and icebreakers, the campers met their roommates and conversed with their hall mates as part of the theme hall tradition. The male halls were covered in inspirational quotes from formidable female powerhouse leaders ranging from Audre Lorde to Shonda Rhimes while the female halls included encouraging words from male role models within various fields. While many of the campers were excited to mingle with the inhabitants of their home away from home, the counselors urged them to rest to minimize the effects of a long travel day.
The entire camp community awoke to a field covered in a circuit of leadership and teambuilding activities. Counselors led campers through eleven obstacles meant to challenge and unite the groups. Activities ranged from camp mainstays such as the human knot, to new challenges, like the sponge relay, intended to help adapt to the blazing California sun.
Understanding “self” was the theme of the day. Following lunch, the new members of Camp Ayandeh and Javan participated in workshops relating to identity. Javan campers learned about their leadership styles within a team through an exercise called “The Medicine Wheel.” By identifying their leadership styles and the roles they play within a team, the middle school students will be better equipped to understand their strengths and weaknesses. The Javan campers certainly learned a great deal about how their characteristics can complement and challenge the dynamics of their team.
While the Javan campers learned about their leadership styles, Camp Ayandeh’s newest members pondered the impact being part of a community has on their identity. Reza Rad, IAAB’s Youth Programs Manager, led the group in the ‘Give it Up’ activity in which participants list the qualities that most define their identity both as individuals and as Iranian Americans. Each quality is listed on a sticky note and attached to their body. The group makes a large circle and each person sheds a card as they take a step into the circle. Eventually the individuals form a cohesive group in the middle, but it is at the expense of the qualities that make them unique. Afterwards, the campers discussed the simulation in a debrief with the other participants and counselors. The activity illuminated the fact that oftentimes individuals hide or compartmentalize parts of their identity, particularly in social settings. Campers were prompted to consider which parts of themselves, particularly relating to their Iranian identity, they hide in order to be part of a majority, such as in a school setting.
Meanwhile, returning Ayandeh campers joined in a stimulating conversation about stereotypes of the millennial and Z generations that are prevalent in mainstream media today. Campers considered examples such as the backlash from The Economist‘s Diamonds reference and the AARP’s latest #DisruptAging campaign. Ultimately, campers concluded that while many stereotypes exist about young people–including the idea that they are apathetic, too young to understand current events, entitled, and overly sensitive–many stereotypes also exist about older generations. When asked how young people should build their role and voice without specifically having representation or power in the system, many responded that it is increasingly important to break stereotypes by working hard and utilizing their ability in technology as a source of strength instead of criticism. Additionally, cross-generational collaborations and relationship-building are key. Opportunities such as demystifying the use of technology and social media for older generations who are less equipped presents an opportunity to a younger generation fluent in such tools. Education and modeling for others can be powerful tools for an otherwise seemingly powerless generation.
After a long day of intellectually and physically stimulating events, the campers finalized their counselor group names and chants. Each group presented the chant to the camp community with a creative introductory skit, but not before counselors challenged them by performing a parody of Kanye West’s song ‘I love Kanye.’ Lyrics included “I miss the old camp” in the version rewritten by counselor and longtime IAABer Sepanta Mohseni, who graduated from Camp Ayandeh in 2008.
Finally, the campers enjoyed an evening of rest on their theme halls in anticipation of a new day. We look forward to sharing more from Camp Ayandeh and Javan with you–so stay tuned!
To view the photos from the first day, please visit IAAB’s Facebook album.
We welcome online participation from all our virtual IAAB family members in the comments section!