Deidra K. Perry is an active YW Board Member and visited Anytown Alabama this year to see the program in action. She has addressed audiences in the US and abroad on topics of diversity, leadership and mixed generations in the workplace. Professionally, Deidra is the Sales Manager of Birmingham Magazine/AL.com.
To willingly sit in a room of teenagers is one thing, but to leave speechless is another. Thus, my mini-visit to Camp Anytown was complete.
Camp Anytown is a YW camp of diverse high school students who come together in a safe environment to discuss issues that arguably aren’t on the agenda of most board rooms in corporate America: race, gender, privilege and tolerance. It may seem silly, but as I sat there, I couldn’t help but remember lyrics to the childhood tune: “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight; Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Oh I’ll admit it – I wanted to stay. The energy, openness and honesty of the campers was refreshing. I loved the no-holds-barred comments and the consistent praise and support they offered each other. But, to be fair, I also wondered if the ‘real world’ would change them 10 years from now or if the lessons from Camp Anytown would stay with them forever. I also wondered who (or what) taught them the stereotypes they freely shared. Who should we blame – the media, society or their parents?
One thing is certain – if we never talk about issues in our communities with our children, nothing will change. Camp Anytown is a forum for students to examine and explore issues that aren’t comfortable, but necessary. The average person would do anything to avoid conversations about prejudice, discrimination and hate; but Camp Anytown tackles these topics and so many more.
I wish programs like this were offered in high schools across our great nation as it is a brilliant model of impacting change through young people. Let’s face it – if the world is going to change, it is the charge of the youngest generation to do it. Now, if only there was a Camp Anytown for adults…
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