Springboard Blog

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Snowball, A Leadership Opportunity by Claire Tolman

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Response for Teens

My proudest accomplishment, and highlight of the year, was getting to be a director of Operation Snowball. This program has been around for far longer than I have been alive, but my first taste of it was last summer when I began my job at Response. My coworker and my supervisor in the Outreach department were also both brand new to their positions; when the director at Response told us about Snowball, we nodded along, but really didn’t have a clue what it would take to make it all happen. To paraphrase her explanation; “Operation Snowball is a weekend retreat for teens that is completely teen-led, where participants have discussions and engage in activities that deepen their knowledge of topics ranging from racism to photography.” That all sounds good and well, but how in the world would we go about planning such an event? 

The answer came to us with the help of others at Response, some creativity, and the support and insight of our wonderful 11 teen leaders. We met with our leaders every week for several months, and they brought so much energy, focus, and dedication to the process. Most of them had been leaders at Snowball before, and regularly expressed their love for the program and for the friends they had met along the way. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from a Snowball leader or participant that the weekend retreat changed their life forever! Many of our leaders started out with ideas for topics that they knew little about; witnessing their growth and ownership of the material, and problem-solving skills was inspiring.  It was exciting to be able to help our leaders expand their individual strengths, and to create another weekend that would live up to everyone’s high expectations. In thinking back, I’d say we were able to do just that. Together with our fantastic group of leaders and enthusiastic participants, we succeeded in creating an inclusive, caring, and supportive space where we all learned from each other and gained new perspectives.  

Now, summer is almost over, and the process begins again. We are still accepting applications for new leaders and can’t wait to see what our team will look like this year. Meetings pick back up in mid-September, and now, with the knowledge and experience my coworkers and I have, we are excited to dive back in. Who knows what new passions we might be uncovered this time around! If you are interested in applying, or know someone who might be, here is the link to the application! We welcome new faces, new ideas and fresh perspectives! 


Claire Tolman is a Community Educator at Response for Teens. As a member of the Outreach team, she designs and teaches lessons on gender, sexuality, anatomy, consent, relationships, birth control, and more, in middle and high school classrooms across Chicago. She also serves as a director of Response’s Operation Snowball program, and is looking forward to another fantastic Snowball retreat this year!

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