Encampment for Citizenship
Favio Apollon, transitioning from YES teens program to FES program for young adults, attended the Encampment, with the support of his NYSEC community. Here are some things he shares in reflection.
This summer, thanks to support from the community of Ethical Culture and the staff of the Encampment For Citizenship (EFC), I spent three weeks in workshops on building community in a democracy! My time at the Encampment was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I appreciate having met young people from all different backgrounds who want to build better communities where they live.
The Encampment was founded in 1946 after World War II, to insure that another event like the war would never happen again. Algernon Black, a Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, and Alice K. Pollitzer, a prominent civic leader, wanted to bring youngsters from all different backgrounds together. Young men and women of of different races, religions, classes, genders, and sexual orientations gathered to have conversations about how to build a community, how to run the government, how youth can take action in their own communities. In those early years, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was on the EFC board of sponsors, not only supported the Encampment, but often hosted all the campers at her Hyde Park home.
This summer’s Encampment was at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Our first day began with creating a “River of Life” to introduce ourselves and get to know each other. Because I live in New York, I tend to think that I have seen and talked to people of every culture. But I was wrong! I had never talked with a Native American — someone whose family and ancestors had not immigrated to America. I enjoyed learning about my Native American friend’s tribe and her life, and realising I had many new wonders to discover about America.
We had to create a form of government together, so we chose to create a Quaker-style democracy. We had art, social justice, and theater workshops. We explored the state of Massachusetts to analyze aspects of government from city to district, from mayor to immigrants. We analyzed how to relate what a community needs to what a community wants. Also, we had discussions about where we live, comparing our communities and learning how to make them better.
My experience at the Encampment was such a privilege. It was grand getting to meet so many incredible young people from all around the country. I didn't have much hope about our generation’s future before. Because of the Encampment, I realize that so many social justice movements have been started by young people. Now I want to use the knowledge that I gained to empower my community and make it better.