Anytown Alabama, a week-long residential camp started by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) in 1989 and now held in partnership with the YWCA Central Alabama, took place on June 2 – 8, 2013, at Camp Hargis in Chelsea, Alabama.
At Anytown, students are challenged to consider how they can make their schools and communities more inclusive for all. Students, also known as delegates, are encouraged to participate in honest dialogue and interactive learning about social justice issues. They learn how to respond to difficult real-life situations with kindness, courage and respect and how to appreciate other cultures and beliefs while they celebrate their own.
The camp hosted 69 delegates from across the Greater Birmingham area that were diverse in race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and neighborhood.
Students took part in ten intensive trainings including participation in open dialogue, games and interactive workshops about social justice issues. Life changing topics covered consisted of racism, religious oppression, sexism, classism and heterosexism.
One such training was a simulation which illustrated the step-by-step difficulties faced by individuals who have undocumented immigration status. “Students were asked to complete everyday tasks, such as getting a driver’s license, going to the doctor or applying for a job. Their experiences were varied depending primarily on their assigned documentation status,” said Joan Witherspoon-Norris, Director of Social Justice.
Following this simulation, students who are immigrants, some of whom are undocumented, had the opportunity to share their personal experiences related to immigration status with the entire group of Anytown staff and delegates.
Delegates also explored the topic of privilege and its effects on class-based relationships. The students were given the task of breaking down and assessing the impact of socioeconomic status on power, the effects of labeling and what each student can do to make a difference.
This session also featured a simulation, known as “The Neighborhood,” that allowed students to grasp the depth of what people with limited socioeconomic resources experience. In the simulation, students were divided into groups and received various levels of financial resources. They were then tasked with building a community using their resources.
This simulation left delegates with a feeling of empathy for some of the challenges faced by people of lower socioeconomic classes experience, while also being able to reflect upon their own class.
The trainings and simulations challenged students to consider how they can make their schools and communities more fair and inclusive for all through this interactive experience.
Delegates who leave Anytown do so as more confident, empathetic leaders who are ready to stand up for what they believe is right. Students have a positive impact on a school’s culture as they discourage intolerance and bullying and serve as allies for their peers.
The YWCA would like to thank the NCCJ and all of our social justice donors for their support of Anytown Alabama. If you are interested in learning more about any of the YW’s programs or to make a donation, please click here.