Bringing Mentorship and Personal Development Full-Circle Through Alumni Programs

Fiver Children's Foundation makes a ten year commitment to youth from economically disadvantaged communities in New York City and Central New York through character-building sleepaway camp and year-round youth development. Over the span of 10 years, Fiver participants learn how to make ethical and healthy decisions and succeed through school, careers, and most importantly, life. 

I started as a participant when I was 7 years old (my birthday was at camp so I turned 8 away from home, something my mom will never forget). My involvement continued over 10 years, and begins again now as a fellow and Communications Chair and Secretary of the Alumni Board. 

LEARN Program

Fiver begins engaging youth through the LEARN program when a participant is eight years old. They begin to learn to start awakening any dreams, recognizing strengths and exploring new interests. It is the start of trying new things and taking risks in a healthy and safe way. They are introduced to the Fiver culture by interacting with older Fiver participants and start to create a path of success for themselves, no matter how big or small it might be. Through 5 years as a LEARN participant, they learn skills which they will take with them into the next program. 

Teen Adventure Program

Nathaly (left) with a fellow Fiver participant during TAP

Nathaly (left) with a fellow Fiver participant during TAP

Fivers move into TAP program, or Teen Adventure Program, and start to focus more on the situations that are presented through middle school and the beginning of high school. They embark on a trip to learn about civic engagement and how to deal with developing friendships in challenging situations. Topics about race, culture and differences amongst one another and learning to accept those differences are taught in this stage. To provide more guidance on their path to success that they have created, their first exposure to college is often done in seventh grade with a trip to Colgate University.

LEAD Program

With these skills and experiences, participants move onto LEAD and then SERVE through their high school career. During these years, all these skills and lessons that they have learned in the first 6 years of their development are now starting to be applied. Lessons will be used not only during high school but as they learn more about crucial information and experiences that come with making decisions after high school. In LEAD, they begin to experience more awareness towards college access and career readiness. They also partake in debating social issues and learn the process for ethical decision making. They participate in a three day wilderness trip to help strengthen team building skills and ethical decision-making. Teens participate in their first formal debate about a social issue or an issue pertaining to camp before they move onto the SERVE program.

Nathaly (left) with a group of Fiver peers in LEAD

Nathaly (left) with a group of Fiver peers in LEAD

SERVE Program

SERVE takes place during the last two years of camp, which most participants are in their last two years of high school or when they are 17 and 18 years old. Many are preparing for college, the workforce or entering the military. They are given more responsibilities at camp and support with preparing for college. Fivers are exposed to a vast community of college students (counselors at camp and staff in the office) and career professionals (through networking events) who often act as role models to them. They go off to college or the workforce as alumni of our Fiver community - a bit more prepared to face the challenges and hardships that come with college, work, or the military. That’s where my role comes into place.

Alumni Program

I went through all the stages and remember the wilderness trip and high ropes course. I remember my college trip with my friends and finally it came time for me to choose a school and start applying. Fiver helped me through the college process and applications, to which I was accepted to 11 out of 13 schools I applied for.  

I was the first to go to a college away from home - a new experience for me and my family.

Four years of college later, endless amounts of homework and hard work, I graduated college! As an alumna myself and having graduated college, I know firsthand the questions that pop up in many students’ minds about how to handle a new type of workload, a new environment, or a new basically anything. Many alumni continue to share their positive college and work experiences with the organization, and now are role models to younger Fivers - just as they looked to others when they were at the same age. They come back as counselors or leadership staff at Camp during the summers off from school if they can. Although many alumni continue to receive support from staff with college and work experiences and other opportunities to grow, it is not always a smooth transition after Fiver.

My role as a fellow through Future Leaders in Action is to reach out to alumni and see what they are currently doing and keep them updated with any opportunities that may be useful for them. My goal is to determine the challenges and hardships that alumni face when they are done with Fiver, school, and what are their next plans are. The challenge is that older alumni are often further along in their careers and might be harder to reach out to and get them re-engaged. I hope to build a program that will keep older alumni engaged as well as our alumni who are not in school, but are in the workforce or the military.

The prospects include creating a mentorship program with older alumni with a current Fiver participant (with those who are in LEAD or SERVE) that might have similar future goals. I also want to work with making more events for social connection and professional development so that alumni can be more engaged with Fiver long-term. Alumni will be offered volunteering events either with Fiver events or volunteering together at other sites. These are just a few parts of the future program I hope to create, which will ideally be sustained by a future Alumni Coordinator staff position.