That’s a Wrap!: Summer Season of Youth Camps, Conferences, + Retreats
When the school year winds down, FosterClub Lived Experience (LEx) Leaders are just getting started advocating for foster care reform, empowering their peers, and of course, having fun in the sun!
Summer 2023 was quite a busy one for our LEx Leaders: They made new friends with other youth from care, went to camp, and gave peers and adults alike lessons in hacking the child welfare system. To celebrate the end of another fun, exciting, and impactful series of summer events, we’re reflecting on some of our favorite moments from this past season.
First up was the Montana Reach Higher Foster Care Summit June 12 - 15, where five LEx Leaders prepared and delivered four workshops.
Topics included “Beat the Odds,” about developing motivation when the odds are stacked against you; and “Getting Solid,” about creating responsible and reliable relationships that can develop into permanent partnerships with adults. Our five LEx Leaders had a great time connecting one-on-one with keynote speaker and foster care advocate Melissa Roshan Potter, as well as networking with peer leaders and adult allies.
Just five short days later, we hosted our annual Oregon DREAM conference, which involved 48 Oregon youth from foster care between the ages of 16 and 23 as well as 19 adult supporters. We couldn’t have done it without our AllStar interns, who are LEx Leaders who have also completed our FosterClub internship program. Our AllStars led workshops on topics ranging from strategically sharing one’s foster care story in advocacy work to handling relationships with one’s birth family to setting personal boundaries.
One attendee remarked, “The event gets better each year,” and we couldn’t agree more! This year saw innovations such as a Career, Education, and Service Fair to help youth participants explore their options for their futures. It also marked the world premiere of the FosterClub app! The app fostered direct communication among conference participants and continues to build community for youth all over the country.
Our second cohort of AllStars hosted and facilitated the 2023 Oregon Teen Retreat for Oregon youth ages 14 - 18. Titled “Follow Your Compass,” it took place August 1 - 4 at the picturesque Camp Cedar Ridge in Vernonia, OR. We’re happy to report it was a BLAST!
From ropes courses to labyrinth walks to a drumming workshop, we had so much fun watching our AllStars, who range in age from 18 to 24, turn around and mentor their younger peers from care. But it wasn’t just fun and games–participants also learned new tools for health and wellness, developed a restored sense of self, and fostered an increased ability to respect others through panels and educational modules led by AllStars.
Eight LEx Leaders also joined FosterClub staff at the 2023 Arkansas Youth Leadership Conference August 7 - 8 in Little Rock. Our LEx Leaders prepared and delivered four workshops, led a large scale real life simulation game to teach young participants how to access resources, and sat on a LEx panel. We heard consistent feedback from workshop and panel attendees that the highlight of our LEx Leaders’ presence was the power of peer connection: meeting and connecting with people who have had similar experiences.
On that note, we have to give a big shout-out to the Arkansas Youth Advisory Board! This group of youth from foster care in Arkansas worked closely with FosterClub LEx Leaders to review curriculum and learn from each other at the conference. Our LEx Leaders loved partnering with new team members and collaborating with some of Arkansas’ best and brightest emerging LEx Leaders.
Summer’s over, but the learning, connections, and memories from the season will stay with us for the long haul. Interested in coming along for the ride next year?
Catch ya in 2024 for more summer vibes and good times!