Throughout the summer, Supports for Success program manager, Emily Mess, and her team have been busy working with youth both at camp and back in St. Louis. Much of the program centers around individual meetings and self-determination planning to help guide young people in grades 10 and beyond through next steps after their camper days have concluded. Emily also strives to provide opportunities that spark curiosity and passion, provide an environment for them to practice articulating their dreams, and begin building small action plans to help them achieve goals, all while staying flexible and adaptable. Its proved successful for participants to have a non-parental adult figure in their lives outside of a school setting to offer this sort of additional guidance and provide a continual foundational base of safety and support during this transitional time. Additionally, connecting youth to more non-traditional career pathways and those pertaining to the outdoors are of significant interest.
Although Supports for Success programming begins for youth beginning in the 10th grade, 8th and 9th grade Leadership Training Program participants start getting acquainted with staff and understanding the expectations so they can be prepared to shift their leadership skills from camp to the outside community. For example, staff toured campers around Washington University and St. Louis University for early college exposure, which gave them great insight into possible plans for after high school and allowed an opportunity to ask questions. We have also been fortunate to add another year-round staff member to the program with Counselors-in-Training (CIT) Director, Tiffany Carey, helping with the continuum of care for the young people we are working with.
This summer, 14 Counselors-in-Training participated in all-staff training, Mini-camp for our 1st and 2nd graders, and depending on their status/grade, worked as cabin group leaders throughout the 15-day session held for 3rd-5th grade campers. CIT Director, Tiffany, was their primary support and supervisor and held meetings with various groups daily, helped with trouble-shooting happenings of camp, and advocated for ways that they could learn, navigate, and increase their own agency as leaders down at camp. The CITs were integrated into all aspects of camp, and helped lead/facilitate activities, transitions, time in their assigned cabin group’s “village”, health/wellness of self and others, etc.
We also focused on preparing for a multi-day trip with the CITs to the Chicago area that consisted of college visits, a trip to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, an architectural boat tour of downtown on the Chicago River, visit to the National Museum of Mexican Art, and much more. For those that were unable to go to Chicago, we had an educational “staycation” day in St. Louis for many of the CITs that was also engaging and memorable. It was a great opportunity to help them explore new areas of St. Louis, expanding their horizons and making them curious about their world. CITS, along with Sherwood Forest staff, went on a guided tour of Cherokee Street hosted by the Missouri History Museum to learn about its history and get familiar with the vibrant city neighborhood. After grabbing lunch, the group visited Cheryl’s Herbs – a black, woman-owned business in the heart of Maplewood. There everyone participated in a class about aromatherapy and the use of various herbs and essential oils. Everyone got to make homemade bath bombs tailored to their individual preferences and even made the connection between the plants used in their creations and those growing in the camp garden. It was a great example that your passion can become your career and valuable to see in action.
This fall, Supports for Success participants will continue taking part in individual meetings with staff to go over their specific needs as they navigate things such as student aid, their senior year checklist, and goal setting. Everyone is looking forward to more local ‘Walk and Talks”, fall hikes at area parks, and a special overnight retreat at camp. We also hope to bring back the ever-popular Supper Club this fall and winter, allowing everyone to experiment with new and exciting recipes together visa Zoom. After a very busy summer, we look forward to winding down the year with restorative and reflective time together, further showing our commitment to the youth we serve and the journey they are on.