This summer we’re running six incredible programs. We kicked it off with BIPOC Horse Camp, where youth spent the weekend camping, riding horses, and learning survival skills. At Y-WE Create, our office transformed into a makerspace where youth spent the week learning to sew, making ceramics, and trying out new things in the kitchen. At Marra Farm, our interns are tending to the land, learning about food justice, and sharing our produce at the local market in South Park. Coming up we have week-long biking and swimming camps specifically for Black girls, non-binary, and gender expansive youth. We’ll round out the summer with Y-WE Write, where youth will dive into poetry, song-writing, or science-fiction at the Seattle Public Library.
Our summer programs are a fast-tracked way to build and experience Y-WE’s community of belonging, due to the extended and concentrated amount of time participants spend together. Alongside adult mentors and facilitators, youth spend their days taking creative risks, trying new things, and connecting with others on a deeper level, making meaningful friendships that will last for years to come. Many of our participants meet Y-WE for the first time at one of our summer camps, and make connections that keep them coming back.
One of the facilitators at Create this year was Andrea Martinez, a recent graduate from Y-WE programs, who also just graduated from culinary school! Andi first came to Y-WE in the height of the pandemic, not knowing anyone. She recalls, “I felt awkward at first. I was kind of avoiding getting more involved because of my internal voice [saying] ‘you don’t belong here.’ But after participating enough in Y-WE, that [sense of] belonging just came with opening myself up, not denying myself the opportunity to participate.” Despite the social distance, Andi remembers making connections at camp that inspired her to continue coming back. “It’s really cool with Y-WE because you make friends in one program, and then you sign up for something else, and you see them in the next program.”
Andi didn’t consider herself a creative person before joining Y-WE. “I think boxing myself in and being like, ‘well, I’m not an artist’ is what had been preventing me from trying stuff and feeling that sense of belonging with other people my age.” Like many of us, she said she often struggled with picking up creative projects and then not completing them. “I will overcommit and get really invested in something and then not follow through because of just not taking that risk, like I’m afraid to fail, afraid to waste material or waste money. I think at Y-WE it’s like, ‘just do your best and if you don’t get it perfect, that’s not a problem, just try again, there’s always more opportunity.’”
As Andi’s time at Y-WE went on, she felt she was able to open herself up and stretch the boundaries of her creativity. “I really started to see how welcoming people were and how the energy of Y-WE is so different than traditional spaces that you would be in. Feeling welcomed in a space for maybe the first time ever, in a situation where I could be openly creative and openly myself was something that I wanted to keep coming back to.”
Things came full-circle as Andi stepped into her leadership to support the Cultural Kitchen track at Create this year. She inspired Y-WE participants to take creative risks in the kitchen, and reclaim the joy of cooking. She used the technical skills she gained at culinary school, paired with the leadership and facilitation skills she gained from her time as a Y-WE participant. “I’m leaving really fulfilled and [with] happy tears. It was an amazing growing experience and interesting feeling the shift of being a participant to being a facilitator. It’s a weight but not a ‘burden’ weight, it’s like stepping in the spotlight that is warm and you are being held in a different way.”
Andi’s story shows that Y-WE’s programs provide youth the comfortability to push past the limitations they may have set for themselves. Seeing Andi step into her leadership this summer has been a beautiful testament of the power of our summer programs. Before Y-WE’s fiscal year comes to an end on August 31, ensure funding for next year’s summer camps by helping us raise $100,000.
Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) cultivates the power of diverse young women* to be creative leaders and courageous changemakers, through transformative programs within a collaborative community of belonging. Join our community by making a donation to support our work with youth today.