Growing up in New York, attending summer camp was a natural thing. My brother, father, grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins, and myself all went to summer camp. I thought everybody went to summer camp and had no reason to think otherwise.
As I got older, I learned that camp was a privilege and not an expectation. Nowhere was this more apparent than my first visit to work in the kitchen at Camp Swift over 15 years ago, when I observed a young girl of about 8 years old stuffing rolls in her pockets at lunch.
When I asked her why, she replied "I thought this was the only meal for the day and I did not want to be hungry later".
When I asked her why, she replied “I thought this was the only meal for the day and I did not want to be hungry later”. I was immediately moved to tears, with the realization that the 150 children attending that five-day camp session all thought the same way. Never in their wildest dreams did they think they would spend time in the woods of Prescott, Arizona with other children their age, eat three meals per day, have fun, and make new friends–certainly it was no expectation.
The Swift Youth Foundation’s summer camp and after-school programs are where disadvantaged Phoenix area youth learn some of the most important life lessons; friendship, teamwork, connectedness, the importance of academic success, realizing personal potential, and critically–greater self esteem.
What makes Swift Youth Foundation so extra special is that these lessons are brought to the children through mentorship of college-bound youth. Conversely, this relationship enables these mentors to gain greater leadership skills, the ability to care for others, effective communication techniques, feelings of accomplishment and genuine fulfillment.
Have you ever played the board game “Life”? I don’t recall ever being fully aware that I was learning as I played it, it was just fun! Imagine a life-size version of this game where children learn about banking, saving, getting a job, going to the doctor, going to college, all of the same things the board game can teach, except its being played in the real world by a large number of children, and they are helping each other figure out what to do next. This is just one example of the fabulous creativity of Swift Youth Foundation’s mentors, which runs throughout all their programming – I cannot think of anything more fulfilling than teaching children life lessons and everyone having fun at it.
The Swift Youth Foundation has recently entered a new and exciting era with professional staff, expanded programming, greater outreach, and larger funding. The Board of Directors now includes Millenials and Gen-x’ers to carry the torch into the future and greater achievement.
I am extremely proud to serve on the Board of Swift Youth Foundation. There are many non-profit organizations focusing on youth, but no others that I know of where young adults are the impetus for teaching younger children, while learning themselves. This is a mutually beneficial relationship with significant impact for all involved. I love it, and love being part of it!
Don Weintraub serves as the Secretary of the Swift Youth Foundation Board of Directors. Don is the Director of Client Relations at The Party Staff, Inc.
Learn how to get involved with Swift Youth Foundation as a volunteer or committee member swiftyouthfoundation.org/volunteer. Visit/donate swiftyouthfoundation.org/donate to see how your donations directly impact our mission.
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