Thursday, April 4th2019
We are about to leave on a leadership adventure to RYLA. We are a small group of teenagers: Chiara, Ariana, Sydnie, Carmen, Alex, and myself, Analuisa. Our chaperone is Raul, and he is a very good leader. We are all very excited about what is about to come.
04/04/19 7:27 am
We are in the airport right now; we leave in about an hour. Sydnie, Arina and I are talking about the trip and what we expect from it. Carmen and Chiara are getting breakfast and getting to know each other more. Raul is being a very good leader right now, he and Alex have been talking for a while, and I think they already bonded. I hypothesize that this group will become very close…
What do you expect from the trip?
Ariana: Bond with people, learn a lot of values that depend on leadership. I also want to learn how to make the world a better place by learning how to establish relationships with fellow leaders.
Sydnie: The same thing as Ari. I want to make new friends and better myself as a person.
Alex: To learn a lot and to get to know me a little more. Being out on the woods will really bring out an adventurous side out of me… Hopefully, there are no bugs.
Carmen: I expect to learn a lot and socialize with people, make friends, and be able to get a really nice learning experience.
Chiara: I expect to grow as a leader.
With the responsibility of a blog, I am planning to try and record what the group thinks of each activity. I have been excited about this for months. I want to learn the basics of being an example to follow, to better my leadership skills; I already consider myself a leader… I really hope I get to know people like me and that have the same aspiration for when they grow up: making the world a better place. I am honestly super hopeful about RYLA.
04/04/19 6:34 pm
We just arrived at the Camp Edwards Branch YMCA, where RYLA is this year and the setting is beautiful. The air is cold, the sky is grey–and the floor is really muddy. There is a little hill of snow and this is the first time Alex and I have seen snow. We just had a little snow fight and, honestly, this day could not get better. We already got our stuff for the lodges and we are ready for the people to arrive.
The people arrived about half an hour later, and everybody was very nice. They served us tacos for dinner, and it was delicious. Us, Joshua’s Heart representatives, got a table for ourselves and if we saw someone standing alone, we would ask them if they wanted to sit with us. We met some exchange students, Thomas (France), Gui and Lia (Brazil), Sean (Spain), and a gymnast, a football player, and a soccer player. Everybody was talking, sharing, and very interested in the fact that we were all from Florida. After dinner, we got to know the small groups that were assigned to us. As soon as we finished that activity, we headed to the lodges where we met our neighbors. Everybody was very social and open which made it easy for us to feel comfortable. There were two lodges, and us–girls–were staying in the farthest one from the Dining Hall. The other one, which was right in front of ours was like a little meeting place for the whole camp. Alex had to stay in one of the cabins and he bonded very well with his cabinmates. Some of us (girls) headed to the other lodge and we found a piano. I play the piano, so Sydnie and I started goofing around with it, and in a second, half the camp was sitting around us singing songs with us. That is how we got to know a lot of people.
04/05/19 2:03 pm
During breakfast, we sat with our small groups and the leaders welcomed us to the camp. We had to go to the first talk of the experience, so we sat down close to each other, but we still managed to meet more people. As soon as the speaker came, he started screaming at us and we were very confused. We fell for his acting, the point of acting like that was “why do you let me scream at you like that? And why do you let others treat you like they deserve your respect when they haven’t earned it”. Personally, I really liked the message behind his actions. Rick Metzger, the speaker, brought props too, and he got the crowd to interact with him. Carmen almost wins a game of “Simon says”. We all liked the speaker, and he gave us a lot of material to work on by ourselves. Some of the things he said really caught our attention, the girls and I talked about how right he was about not letting people demand respect without deserving it, no matter who you are.
Right now, we are in free time. And the weather is amazing, we have another talk in a few minutes but right now, we are doing group activities. The camp has some activities that require teamwork, and we all could agree that these made us closer to our designated groups. The weather is warmer and the sun is out and shining. It is a beautiful day.
After the activities, we headed to the gym to hear another talk. And after the talk, we went to dinner. Dinner was nice, and everybody was getting to know their groups a little more. After dinner, they gave us free time. In which some of us did homework, and the others discovered the camp. After free time, we had the campfire, and it was amazing. One of the leaders sang stories with his guitar while some participants danced around the fire. We were told the scary story of “Doshkaya” and everybody was super engaged in this activity. After the small performance of different acts, we had s’mores. There was a never-ending line to get to the marshmallows, but the company of other people kept us warm and the time passed fast. In this line, we met with some of our new friends and decided to go back to the lodges to hang out there. Turns out, there was a huge party in our lodge, but we joined them and had a good time.
Sydnie and I were almost late to breakfast again. We ran too fast–we are still wheezing. Today, for breakfast we have French toasts. And I’m getting coffee right now; yesterday, we stayed up getting to know our lodge mates, and we talked–a lot. Our “neighbors” are truly wonderful, and honestly, the entire group of girls is super tight now, you can say that we will keep in touch after this. On another note, we just found out Joshua was unable to come, and we are trying to see what we are going to talk about, we need the entire group to talk about this so, probably after breakfast, we will manage something…
After breakfast, we did an activity with the entire group and it was hilarious; it involved being an egg, a chicken, a pterodactyl, a t-rex, and finally a champion with muscles. Do not ask me why, but the levels that follow are the “evolution” of the one before–I don’t know how a t-rex comes from a pterodactyl, very imaginative. After this game, Sydnie approached us to set up the strategy of how we would represent Joshua’s Heart Foundation in one of the talks.
Before the talk, we showed two of Joshua’s Heart videos and everybody was super intrigued. When they asked us to come, our new friends from the camp were impressed that we were the representatives. Sydnie introduced us by explaining what the Joshua’s Heart Foundation did, the mission, the goal, and how we helped people in Miami. Chiara talked about how Joshua’s Heart Foundation came to be and how, even though it started with Joshua, now, there are dozens of people behind the foundation. Ariana spoke about how the Joshua’s Heart Foundation helped her become a better person, and how it made her feel happy when she helped others through this organization, she gave a personal anecdote and it was inspiring. Carmen explained what she had done as part of the foundation and how it had taught her many values. Alex talked about the goals the foundation had reached, and the public applauded every time he said a Joshua’s Heart Milestone. Raul talked about the awareness that was needed, and how everybody deserves to be helped. He also highlighted the fact that we, teenagers, can really make a change if we want to. I spoke about how even a little bit of help makes a change; it marks the start of something that can become as big as our foundation. I mentioned that if only all the people in the room gave a little bit of help, thousands of families could get better. The talk went on smoothly, and even though all of us were nervous and had no time to prepare something, we did amazingly and everybody applauded us afterward. The people asked questions like: “Do you have a base in Wisconsin or Illinois?” and “How can we help from here?”. And this made me realize that we are not the only ones who want to make a change. There are people all around the country who want to lend a hand. The talk ended with the people smiling and clapping, everybody congratulated us and started asking how they could be part of the foundation. It really changes you when you realize that there are people who want to help just like you.
After our talk, another speaker came. He highlighted the traits of each generation in the last hundred years. He talked about how each generation had been conditioned by the events that had happened right before, or during the time of the birth of most people of the generation. He mentioned that us, Gen Z, would really make a change. He assured us that we would be the change of the world, that we were part of a bigger movement, that we would be better. Thanks to the amount of information available at the tip of our hands, we can do anything anytime. We can learn faster and we can find out things in the blink of an eye. Joshua’s Heart Foundation being youth-led is part of the bigger change of the world. We are already making a change, and our generation will succeed in solving problems from the past.
The RYLA experience was incredible. All of us representatives can agree that it was completely eye-opening. We met our future fellow leaders of tomorrow, and it was a truly unforgettable experience. All of us left wanting more, and I hope the integrants of Joshua’s Heart can keep attending RYLA because it is truly amazing. Meeting people from the North, who have different lifestyles, made me realize that the world is so big, that we could find thousands of people who are willing to lend a hand, we just have to show them how. As representatives of the foundation, we tried to really convey what the building-blocks of Joshua’s Heart are, and a lot of the people were really interested in what we do. Even a woman reached out to Sydnie and me to see if Joshua and her organization could get in touch since both of them are in New York. This experience taught me a lot about how to lead, how to really be the best you can be. It also showed me that everybody is different and their purpose of life is different from yours. However, if we unite forces we will succeed–this I learned during the group activities.
As the writer of this blog, I am proud to say that I really loved the experience and it really helps you visualize how the “big” amount of people you know that want to help, are only a small fraction of the number of people in the world who are trying to lend a hand. And to speak for the April group, we all learned a lot, and it really helped us get to know ourselves better. The RYLA Experience was truly a blessing, and we are very happy that Joshua’s Heart Foundation let us represent it.