Youth of Color Heal, Learn, Connect in the Outdoors

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Our youth are back from camp with new connections, insight, and knowledge.

Located in 1,500 acres of beautiful Yellow Pine Forest, Grizzly Creek Ranch hosts the Boys and Men of Color Camp and Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, where youth of color from all over California—participating in the Building Healthy Communities initiative—converge to engage in a week-long program of team building, advocacy, storytelling, and leadership skills.

“Every time I go to these things, I listen to what people have to say and try to feel what they feel; that’s how you learn, by putting yourself in other people’s shoes,” Victor explained that he shares this new wisdom from camp with his younger brothers.

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Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat, the girls and women of color camp, is relatively new and is itself a manifestation of the youth’s search for equity and opportunities to develop as leaders.

Leslie Renteria, a former member of Mid-City CAN Youth Council, explains that several young women attended a lobbying event in Sacramento in 2013 and realized that they were among hundreds of boys and men who, before the lobbying event, had attended “camp where they are prepared for lobbying days and make sure that they are educated on what they are going to be speaking.”

Renteria explains that young women did not have this same opportunity.

Along with a group of young women from other Building Healthy Community sites, Renteria organized and worked with The California Endowment to launch a retreat for girls and women of color to provide women an opportunity to learn from mentors and from each other. “It’s more about a space where we are able to connect with other young ladies or young women who at some point have been through the same struggle,” highlighted Renteria.

Having and all-women’s and all-men’s space is important “because it isn’t the same approach that we take when talking to boys and men of color [as it is] with girls and women, especially because we wanted to include our LBTQ folks and our undocumented ladies,” said Renteria.  “As much as it is learning and gaining more knowledge, it is also healing and making sure that they accept the conditions that they are in and learning to heal from that. It is very empowering to know that I could be in this awful situation but at the same time I can learn to heal from it and grow as a person,” she added.

“Telling my story is powerful and my story can help others and the way I’ve overcome certain things can help others,” Figueroa explained the power behind sharing one’s story and learning from others.

The Boys and Men of Color Camp and Sisterhood Rising Leadership Retreat—now in its third year after an initial pilot in 2014—continue to inspire and prepare youth to create positive in their communities and to heal and learn from each other.

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