When I was in college, I had small opportunities to develop personally and professionally through extracurricular activities, work, internships, and volunteering but I still felt there was room for development and growth. When my undergraduate college career was coming to an end, I was informed of FLIA and felt the mission supported with the growth I was looking for. Not only was I motivated to develop myself as a leader and nonprofit professional, but I was also going to be partnered with an organization that I had worked with during the previous two summers - Fiver Children’s Foundation. There were many emotions going through my mind. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to take on a new role with an organization I had worked for already, go through a variety of trainings geared towards working with the youth, or take on new responsibilities for both organizations in preparation for my future in the “real world.”
I am entering the seventh week of my twelve-week fellowship as the Environmental Awareness Fellow at Fiver Children’s Foundation’s Camp Fiver program. Although six weeks is a not a long time, I am taking away more lessons and skills than I could have imagined would occur in such a short timeframe.
Through trainings organized by both FLIA and Fiver, experiential learning, and fellowship program components, I am gradually starting to feel more prepared for my future endeavors as a professional in the social sector.
Throughout Fiver’s ten-year commitment to its youth, participants are invited to attend year-round educational and recreational programs as well as Camp Fiver, a two-week residential summer learning program in upstate New York. This is where I have worked for the past two summers as a Counselor and am currently doing my fellowship on the leadership team. All the programs offered through Fiver are based off of their Theory of Change. Fiver’s Theory of Change has three different pathways to success which Fivers follow through their ten-year character building journey:
The first pathway is for Education and Career Success and focuses on staying engaged in school, understanding the connection between education and future successes, and developing relevant, market-driven, 21st century skills to succeed in school and careers.
The second pathway is of Service and Leadership, which focuses on the youth demonstrating tolerance, empathy, leadership, advocacy, and being engaged citizens.
The last pathway is Healthy Life Choices, which includes providing mentors for the youth, gaining and understanding the influences that impact decision-making, and making healthy and ethical life choices.
The ultimate outcomes of these three pathways is to ensure the youth that complete their ten-year journeys are happy and fulfilled in work, family and life, make positive contributions to society, and share what they have learned with the world.
As the Environmental Awareness Fellow at Camp Fiver, I will be developing and implementing curriculum for the Environmental Education Program at Camp Fiver, which falls under the pathway of Service and Leadership. Being an environmentalist is a fundamental component of Fiver’s overarching character development program. Youth are exposed to a diverse natural environment, participate in environmental education classes, on- and off-site campouts, gardening classes, and practice composting. Although being an environmentalist can sometimes directly relate to one’s natural habitat, at Fiver, being an environmentalist encompasses the importance of one’s community as well.
Through the program I develop, the youth and staff at Fiver will gain a better understanding of the importance of their environment and what it means to be environmental stewards in an everyday setting - at home in New York City or upstate New York.
During my fellowship so far, I have worked in the Fiver Children's Foundation office in Manhattan and at Camp Fiver in upstate New York. At the Fiver office in Manhattan, I dove headfirst into developing curriculum for the environmental education program that would launch at Camp Fiver this summer. There, I also had the opportunity to go through extensive trainings with Fiver administration and other staff, where we discussed topics including inclusion, diversity, leadership and facilitation skills, roles and responsibilities, and the significance of working with youth from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Once at Camp Fiver, I was able to set the environmental programs into action alongside Fiver youth. Operating in these two very different work settings has allowed me to experience substantial growth. I can’t wait to keep working directly with Fiver youth for the next five weeks and using these newly developed or enhanced skills for my future in the social sector.