As a Springboard Teen Engagement Specialist I have the great fortune of being able to spend a lot of my time out of the office, participating in amazing programs taking place throughout the community. A highlight has been staffing Springboard School Break programs, where in the past two years I've participated in two different but equally incredible experiences.
In the spring of 2016, I was part of Studio Chi, a film making program that was held at JCC Camp Chi. It was clear from the start that film making fosters community. The first day started the way many teen programs begin, with a team building activity. This group of iPhone using, Instagram posting teens was given a challenge: to develop a roll of film. The teens worked together, relied on each other's knowledge and experience, cheered each other on and ultimately reached the goal together. That was just in the first hour. Over the next four days they continued to work together as a group, creating new friendships and strengthening existing ones, and sitting around a bonfire while singing songs and eating s’mores. Plus, they learned new skills, got to use some serious (and expensive) film equipment and created an inspiring movie.
Last March I traveled back to Camp Chi, this time headed to BreakAway, a multi-tracked spring break adventure, where I staffed their Tree House Construction program. Again, I immediately noticed that participants were not only learning how to create a building concept, but also a Jewish community. One of the most exciting parts of project was designing the walls. The participants determined the height of the walls, the locations where they’d cut out the windows, the paint colors and the design. Although they were never told to do so, many of the designs included Jewish symbols or Hebrew words. When I asked the teens what inspired these designs, they said it seemed obvious to them to have the structure reflect that it is a part of a Jewish community. To me, this group of teens who had only recently met, demonstrated that they were doing more than just building a tree house. They saw their Tree House as a part of something larger.
On face value these programs had almost nothing in common. One week was spent mostly inside, while the other was outside; one focused on technology while the other focused on physical skills. While the programs were designed with different teens in mind, the common thread was that both groups spend their week creating something special, learning new skills and making new friends. This year I might be on a road trip, advocating for the causes that are important to me, developing new culinary skills, or participating in one of the other amazing Springboard School Break options. While I don’t know which program I’ll participate in, I do know that whatever I do, the teens participating will have a chance to have a unique interest-based experience while also forming a special community with other Jewish teens.
-Brittany Abramowicz Cahan, Springboard Teen Engagement Specialist