Youth Development Academy

With school budgets being cut throughout the state, students are the ones suffering the loss most. Fewer school programs and extracurricular activities for students means less opportunity when those same students begin applying for higher education. Non-profit organizations like Sharefest and its summer Youth Development Academy (YDA) provide the growth and development for young teens that public schools cannot.

According to the Sharefest website, “Sharefest’s Youth Development Academy strives to help meet this need through year-round and summer programs that offer academic and extracurricular opportunities to underserved middle and high school students throughout Los Angeles County.”

The YDA holds two-week long programs for Los Angeles students on the campus of California State University at Dominguez Hill.  From July 7th through August 7th, the YDA program teaches middle and high school students values and skills such as respect, responsibility, honesty, integrity and leadership.

Middle school student Raymond Butler was one of the few students asked to attend the second session after already completing the first, “I love it here, I didn’t know what if felt like being a leader until I started coming to YDA” he said.

Consisting of two sessions for junior high students and one for high school students, the youth participate in activities such as creative writing, learning to swim, touring colleges, beautifying their city and interviewing politicians.

Among the politicians student had the privilege of meeting were Donald R. Knabe, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, serving the Fourth District, and Joe Buscaino, currently serving on the Los Angeles City Council for the 15th district.

Every day students participate in activities that expand their leadership skills, including a day of service at the Toberman Neighborhood Center, in San Pedro California, where they spent the day cleaning, painting and beautifying.  Students also enjoy swimming daily, some learning skills they didn’t expect.  “I didn’t know how to swim before coming here, I was so scared,” said middle school student Daisy Garcia.

The counselors who have devoted their summers every year take the camp to a whole new level as they help make the students’ experiences the best they can be. The youth are introduced to a variety of role models from the local community such as civic leaders, college students and college professors to provide real-life examples of what their future could hold, according to Sharefest’s website.

At the end of each session the students and counselors reflect on what they have learned throughout the two weeks and receive individual awards.  Then, to finish off the camp, students are given the opportunity to be a part of the annual water olympics, in which they are divided into two teams.

At the end of each day students head home with smiles on their faces, new friends, fond memories and skills that will follow them as the new school year begins.