Like most of the people I have had the pleasure of meeting at CGTI, I started my journey as a participant. The first year I was welcomed to camp, I was confused by the overwhelming kind Volunteer Staff, I was nervous about making new friends and I could not wait for the week to be over. However, these feelings of doubt only lasted for that first day. By the end of my first week the contagious energy and joy of those around me made me wish to never leave.
That’s why when I reached the age of deciding whether I should become Staff or not, I decided that it was time for me to transition from a participant to Staff.
This can be difficult especially when you have peers that are younger than you. For me, I had to learn how to balance leadership with friendship. In order to have the most productive camp, it is important to have authority with kindness. What I mean by this is that even though you may be the same age as others who aren’t on Staff, there are times when you have to make sure that everyone stays on track. Even with the responsibilities, being a leader brings so much joy. Being able to watch others find their voice and become more sure in themselves is incredible.
If you are on the fence about continuing to be a part of CGTI by joining Staff next year here are a few benefits.
•Life long friendships
•Gaining a sense of purpose
•Speaking & Communication skills
•Learning to delegate
Being a part of Volunteer Staff is incredible opportunity and journey. Ask a Staff member this Summer about what part of the experience is important to them and consider applying in 2024!
I grew up without my father. He was incarcerated for multiple reasons ranging from drugs, weapon charges, and fleeing the police. He never saw any of my first days of school, he never got to go to a father-daughter dance with me, he never got to take me to get my favorite food, he never got to do anything that a father should do with their daughter. He was eventually released late 2018, on parole. He finally got to come to my first volleyball game in the 8th grade. I will never forget the happiness I felt seeing him come inside that gym and cheering for me. This was a start of a new chapter in my life, for the both of us. He went to my 8th grade graduation. He was so proud - it was clear he was ecstatic about seeing one of his children graduate for the first time. He was so proud of me. I was always my dad's “Golden Child.” Before me, my dad had never gotten to see any of his children graduate - he has five of us - and it turns out, I'd be the first and last one he would see graduate.
At this point in my life, I was at my peak. I graduated 8th grade, I was in AAU for basketball, I was about to start high school, and my father was showing signs of actually wanting to be a part of my life. I felt like I was getting everything I wanted. I started high school, and it was going great. I had my first Homecoming coming up, I was active in sports per usual, I had a ton of friends. I was living the life of an average high school student in America. This was all destroyed on September 22, 2019. My father was murdered outside of his home on a Sunday afternoon. I remember it vividly. I was home from church sitting in my recliner, and I got a facetime call from a random number. I declined it at first, and then they called again, so I picked up. There I saw my dad, my world, the man who made me, lying lifeless on the ground. My mom and I drove over there immediately, and I just ran and grabbed my dad. The paramedics and police had to pull me off of him, but I was destroyed. My life has changed ever since.
Since then, I have used that pain and hurt to put fire under my feet to become an activist within my community. I have been on the news speaking up for children who lost their dads due to gun violence. I am apart of Young Leaders in Action, I serve on the board for the Action Team and I am on the executive board. I am apart of Simp Inc., which combats gun violence in my county and teaches kids positive ways to have fun without committing crime. I have been an honor roll student for the past three years of high school. I got invited to Washington D.C for a youth summit for Law & CSI. I was invited to go to Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute Conference, which deals with prevention and how to impact the community for the youth, and I also received a certificate for litigation from Brandeis University online course. I did not allow my father's death to keep me in a deep depression - I used that to create change in my community so no child will have to experience the gut-wrenching pain I felt. I am not done yet with the work I have left to do. I am just getting started.
We as human beings grow up to be people that are encouraged to grow in the world and explore and evolve the greater natures of life. But what happens if you feel you were born differently from everyone else?
In this life, it’s easy to forget the problems others have in their daily functioning than we do. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 adults live with a disability. That’s about 26% of our population.
Many people live with disabilities such as learning disabilities, and mobility disabilities. Sometimes when they are young, they can feel shifts of sadness or depression because of their disabilities or things they can not control.
Embracing our Differences
In this world, being someone different is something we all need to see and embrace. Being different now can be a light to people who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Embracing our differences comes from understanding our own many characteristics, failures and faults. It is up to our character mindsets that can help us to be a difference maker in our lives or the lives of friends and family.
CGTI offers that despite our many differences, we can make a positive change in the world, whether that be in our community homes, state and schools. CGTI is more than just the program it offers to our young teenagers and young adults. It is an uplifting welcome to all people that are wanting a change!
I will be finished with my last year of high school in 9 weeks. I will graduate in 72 days. I will be starting college in 164 days. Those facts all make me very excited and nervous all at the same time. Leaving for college can be scary but I also know that it’s going to be a fun new experience for me. I also draw comfort from the fact that I will only be an hour away from home. Another thing that helps me feel more prepared for meeting so many new people is my experiences with CGTI and Operation Snowball. In college, I will be studying Early Childhood Education to earn my bachelor’s degree. I am hoping that my experiences with CGTI will help me in my area of study. Leadership qualities that I have been able to improve at CGTI will be a tremendous asset to my studies and future career.
Attending CGTI Events has let me make a variety of new friends and I hope that the skills I have learned at making new friends will transfer over to college as well. Introducing yourself to someone new can seem really scary but a majority of the time they are trying to work up the courage to introduce themselves to someone new as well. Everyone wants to make connections in a new place to feel at home, so being too scared only delays the feeling of comfort. The advice that I am giving myself as I finish my senior year and get ready to start college is to always remember that you may regret chances you don’t take. So my point is to go big and hope for the very best while stepping out of your comfort zone.
Self-Concept is defined as “an idea of the self-constructed from the beliefs one holds
about oneself and the responses of others”. It is how we view ourselves, which is why it
is very important that one's self-concept is healthy and positive.
Some ways I help improve my self-concept is:
- Take long walks
- Start a new hobby
- Read a new book
- Watch a movie
- Volunteer with local organizations
Ways to maintain self-concept:
- Have a schedule
- Set time for relaxation
- Build good communication skills
- Seek out new opportunities
Grades, scholarships, and college - all of these things give high schoolers today so much stress in their daily lives. This stress can negatively affect these teens' lives in many ways. So, how can students today mitigate their stress surrounding school?
I find that calming techniques really help during a stressful situation. One simple one that can be incredibly helpful is breathing in for five seconds and then out for five seconds. Another calming technique that may be helpful to you during a stressful situation would be to look around yourself and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and finally, one thing you can taste.
Taking Care of Yourself
School can be stressful and feel very time consuming. However, taking care of yourself and your body should always be your first priority. For instance, if you are feeling overly stressed, try eating a meal, taking a shower, or even just simply going to bed.
Do What Makes You Happy
Something I find helps me when I am most stressed while doing my calculus homework is stopping whatever problem I'm currently on and just doing something I find joy in. Whether that is going to my friend's house, taking a nap, or going rollerskating. It is always a nice way to de-stress from the school I am doing.
By responsibly managing time, you can achieve more work in less time by being more efficient. Completing more work in less time can reduce the stress of having many incomplete things all at once. Having too many incomplete things going on can increase the feeling of being overwhelmed, which in turn can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Finishing more work efficiently can lead to more free-time and lower stress levels. Follow the tips below to manage your time more efficiently!
If you suspect someone is having mental health-related problems, you shouldn’t just ignore it. Assume you are the only person who is going to reach out to the person because your words will matter.
If a quiet person in your life starts to speak out or a loud person in your life starts to get quiet, this could be a sign that they have mental health-related problems. Even if you don’t know the person, but you notice the shift in their behavior you can tell someone in their friend group or a family member.
Ways to approach this type of situation in noticing changed behavior is to mention the changed behavior you have noticed and to express your concern. Based on how close the person is to you, you might approach this situation differently just remember to be sincere.
Check out these do's and don'ts and remember them next time you consider reaching out to someone!
The Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute is a place where you can find a community while helping your community. You can start attending the summer camp in middle school. As a middle school participant you get to have fun while learning about substance use prevention and how to become a better leader in your community. That first year is a year like no other. Everything is new. It's like stepping to a whole new world with so many possibilities. It can feel weird at first, everyone cheering and dancing while you are just a shy middle schooler, trust me I know. That foreign experience is beneficial, especially at that age. Feeling safe to be your authentic self in an environment makes it easier to make friends and learn things. That first year for me I started to figure out who I was by discovering what I wanted to do. At the age of 12, your world is a lot smaller and time passes differently. In middle school making an action plan of what to do at school feels like a set plan for the future. At least that's how it felt for me. I saw the ability to do something that gave me a purpose.
Part of working on an action plan is making sure you are maintaining it year round. How you can make sure you are doing that is by going to Mid-Year. Mid-Year is a great place to reconnect with all your new friends from over the summer. It's also a great place to keep developing your leadership skills and action plan. You can see a future and you can set goals, but if you don’t put in the work nothing is going to change. As a middle school participant, you are the youngest group with so much to learn still. You are going to make mistakes; it's all a part of the journey of learning. Even though you are a part of the youngest group at camp you are a part of the group of leaders from your community. You are a leader and learning makes a huge difference. You have the courage to go to an unknown place and learn about preventing substance use and creating an all inclusive environment.
Middle school comes to an end, and once you graduate from eighth grade you can become a high school participant. As a high school participant, you get to make more friends. You still get to enjoy workshops and general sessions. I would say the biggest difference is Discussion Groups. Discussion Groups in middle school are with people closer to your age and you have in common that you are all still new to TI. As a high school participant you are thrown into a group with people who have more experience being a leader in their communities. The great part about that is you get to learn from your peers not just about TI and being a leader, but also about what to expect in high school. The summer after eighth grade for me was a chance to prepare myself for starting my freshman year.
If I had to pick one year as a participant that I enjoyed the most, it would have to be my fourth year at CGTI. After going through middle school and my first year of high school, I felt at home when going back. When you get to know the people and get into the groove of how the days go both at Mid-Years and over the summer, you have more time to have fun. After three years of learning and growing out of the awkwardness, you get to enjoy the summer even more than before. What I learned is that you don’t feel weird participating in workshops and taking healthy risks once you become more and more conformable. Not only that but you can take even more leadership roles in your community. Age does equal more responsibilities. After being a high school participant, you can become a PALS member. A PALS member is a Participant with Advanced Leadership Skills. It is like training for being on Youth Staff. It's a lot more learning and practicing having a larger role in the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute. You still do action planning and watch the general sessions. Again the biggest difference is Discussion Groups. In PALS, you have PALS meetings where you learn things. You still process things from the workshops throughout the day, but the activities are different. Taking on being a PALS member is like saying you're ready to take a larger step in your leadership journey - both in your community and in CGTI. PALS only happens in the summer, meaning you could do PALS and still be a high school participant in the winter.
Just like PALS, Youth Staff only happens in the summer. For PALS you can do that the summer after your junior year. Youth Staff you do once you have done PALS and complete high school. Obviously in the past there have been exceptions and the circumstances of the world affected how TI did things in 2020 and 2021. Now we are back and better than ever. Youth Staff was such a special experience for me I will never forget. It was a long journey to get to be on Youth Staff and one worth taking. My world is a lot bigger than what it was in middle school. I had the typical moments of doubt about whether or not staff was for me. The great thing about Youth Staff is you get to learn, practice and have larger roles. You are there for staff trainings. You get to co-facilitate Discussion Groups and action planning. You have more responsibilities and with that comes the freedom of getting to learn how you fit in with the staff group. You are no longer working with your school peers, you are working with people who taught you. You get to spend time learning more from them, but also getting to know them. You never stop making friends at CGTI and you never stop growing into a better leader.
Home is where the heart is, home is where your chosen family is. A home is a safe place where you are allowed to grow. Where you can leave and come back, even if it's been years, and you are welcomed in with open arms. Home is where unconditional love and acceptance are. Home is an environment where you can learn how to be a better member of your community. Home is the Cebrin Goodman Teen Institute. That is the biggest thing I learned throughout the years because after the time spent growing through CGTI, it really becomes your home. It becomes your family where you get to pass on traditions and wisdom to new members. Where you still get to learn from those who have been around longer than you. That's what being on staff truly is: you are a part of a family and you have an important role to play. Being on Volunteer Staff is just one step towards even more. I am just at the point of being on Volunteer Staff and one day I may be on the Leadership Team. Growth in CGTI truly never stops. The love for the people and missions of IABH, Snowball, Focus, and CGTI keeps growing. You can start at any point and be welcomed in with open arms. You could have no experience or a lot of experience in Snowball and CGTI regardless you are welcomed in with open arms. The journey to staff doesn’t just take one path. I told my journey based on what I experienced. Every single member of staff experienced a different journey and so will you.
Humans, by nature, are social creatures. Humans are born to share ideas and emotions with each other. The very wellbeing and survival of a human being is significantly rooted in the social connections in one’s life. We even see it in our closest relatives, apes, who have their own family structures. So why, why is it that no matter how much we desire friendships, how much we want love, why is it so awkward to approach someone new?
Human brains are naturally pessimistic. It’s very easy for the brain to consider the worst possible scenario, and when we approach someone new that’s exactly what we expect. We expect them to judge us, look at us suspiciously, or take advantage of us.
It’s very much normal for the brain to generate these thoughts because it’s trying to protect us from being hurt. Our brains are always cautioned with new things. What’s great about our brains, though, is that they’re ours. Just like you can control the way your hair looks, you can control how your brain reacts to people all with simple knowledge, and it all takes one word: Sonder. Sonder is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. So why is this important? Well it means that just like you were blast processing insecure thoughts before meeting that new person, they were doing the same. They too were worried about their smell. They too thought they had dressed too casual. The truth is, the #1 thing everybody has constantly on their mind is themselves. And it’s that fact that you can use to become a sociable person.
Now this isn’t to say that everyone is a selfish egocentric person. All this means is that people are worried about sustaining themselves before even thinking of others. Let’s say you had to wear a really ugly sweater to school because all of your stylish clothes are dirty. Of course the first thought in your mind at school is how everybody is going to see how ugly your sweater is. Sure, someone may see it, but that someone is also too worried about how their hair looks to even think about making a judgement on your sweater. So next time you have a really awkward moment with someone, just know that by the time you get home they’ve already forgotten about it. They are busy thinking about their own awkward moments and mishaps.
The truth is people are likely not thinking about your agenda or your insecurities, so really, they’re under your control! If people are constantly taking in only what's around them, then the world will see you for who you want to be. The judgements you place on yourself will be the judgements the world accepts.
The greatness of sonder is that you have all of the responsibility for who you are to yourself. It comes with realizing the anonymity of real life that potential for an enjoyable future can be seen. The world is a collection of over 7 billion unique, connected, and individual stories where it’s easy to get lost and feel small. Make yours stand out.
The Oxford dictionary defines compassion as, “sympathetic pity and concern for the suffering or misfortune of others.” This definition isn’t exactly on the positive side and makes compassion seem like it’s only meant for other people, when it’s important to have compassion for yourself and others. There are two different types of compassion: compassion for others and self-compassion. Both of these are equally important especially now. So join me on the passion for compassion journey as we explore compassion for others and yourself.
Throw Compassion Around Like Confetti !!!!
Compassion is a combination of kindness and empathy, which is something everyone needs. However, sometimes it can be easy to forget. In this COVID-19 era, we quite literally have had a wall dividing us from those around us. It can make it harder to connect, express emotions, and help each other. Normally when a friend was having a bad day all you had to do was be their shoulder to cry on. Hug them and reassure them that everything was going to be okay. Sadly, we can't always do that anymore without the risk of COVID-19 coming into play. This can make it harder to be there for your friends and others. So that's where what I like to call COVID compassion comes into play. Here is how you can be there for your friends while keeping six feet apart:
It is the digital age so give them a call, shoot them a text, host a Zoom meeting. Humans are social by nature and that doesn't have to stop just because it feels like everything else has.
Go on a social distance walk in nature.
Watch a movie together over Zoom.
Be a sympathetic ear. Just listen to what they have to say and offer support.
You can write letters to them. Letters are more personal and they do take some time to arrive, so it will make your friend's day when it does
Self Care Isn't Selfish!!!!
Here are some self-care gifts to give yourself:
Reach out to people you have not talked to in a long time. While writing this I sent a message to three friends I haven't talked to in a while, and honestly, it was the smartest decision I've ever made. It opened a door that otherwise wouldn't have been opened if I didn't send a message. We have been isolating ourselves for so long that we sometimes forget that we have the world at our fingertips. Because connecting with others is the greatest gift you can give yourself.
Plan a future trip you want to take when it is safe to do so. People are starting to get pandemic paranoia causing them to worry about when this will all end. Therefore hope is the most important gift you can give yourself.
Limit social media usage.
Pay attention to your feed. If it is more on the negative side, try and find more positive things to be looking at. It's one thing to be informed on current events. It is another to let the negativity of others dictate your life.
Create a playlist of music that you like and lifts your spirit.
Trade in the COVID mask for a spa mask and give yourself a spa day. It is important to unwind no matter who you are - it never hurts to treat yourself.
Laugh. People sometimes underestimate the power of laughter. Laughter is the best medicine. Even though it can't cure Coronavirus, it can cure the feelings of sadness and fear we all felt at some point during this pandemic.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Treat yourself how you want others to treat you.
Keep it positive.
Despite the fact that yoga is becoming extremely popular among adults as a way to stay fit and stay healthy, most teenagers and young adults do not take it seriously. Personally, I was introduced to yoga because it was the only PE class available in my schedule junior year. I was very skeptical about it at the beginning, but with time yoga became an inevitable part of my morning routine, not only because of its physical benefits but psychological as well. Some of the scientifically proven benefits of yoga include better heart health, improved eating habits, reduced inflammation, and migraines. However, I think one of the biggest benefits of practicing yoga is the positive impact it has on our mental health.
As a high school student, I do not necessarily experience big stresses in my life such as buying a house or losing a job. However, just like most teenagers, my life is full of constant small stressors such as preparing for tests and AP exams, applying to colleges, managing school, and personal life, performing well at sports, etc. Combined with the peer pressure and the pressure of deciding our future, all these stressors on the developing teenage brain can lead to anxiety attacks or even depression. This is when yoga comes into place.
Practicing yoga 20-30 minutes a day gives me enough time to forget about whatever worries I have and allows me to focus on my body and mind. Relaxing yoga flows - Vinyasa Yoga - not only calms me down but helps me recharge and set the intention for the day. When I focus on not falling out of my pose or reaching my toes when stretching, I do not think about the upcoming tests or college essays I need to write, which helps me relieve my anxiety and decrease my stress levels. When I feel especially stressed, I like to do Yin Yoga, which is a slow meditative flow. If you are a beginner, it might be harder to hold some of the poses for a longer period of time, but this is why breathing is very important.
Breathing is one of the most essential parts of yoga because it helps you remain focused and bring your attention back if it wanders. During the practice, it helps me remain balanced and deepens the stretch. I really enjoy doing 4-7-8 breathing (inhale for the count of four, hold the breath for seven and exhale for the count of eight) after my workout because it helps me calm down my body and my mind. By performing breathing exercises regularly, you will not only benefit psychically but also mentally, as breathing techniques are widely used to decrease stress levels and increase awareness of an individual's feelings and emotions. There is a wide variety of breathing exercises, so you can definitely find the one that would benefit you.
After a regular yoga practice or a workout, I like to spend a couple of minutes doing Yoga Nidra, which is a guided meditation. It is a great way to end the practice and set your final intention for the day. It helps me completely relax and recharge. Moreover, meditation is a great way to connect with your inner self, understand your worries and your feelings, which is also why yoga is used to fight anxiety and depression. It promotes self-love and encourages positive self-talk. You can also try doing Restorative Yoga to help relax your mind. Having a routine and knowing that your yoga mat is always there, waiting for you, can be very helpful in stressful situations and can even help fight depression.
Lastly, doing yoga regularly promotes good sleep quality. Let's be honest, it's very difficult to find a high school student who is getting a good quality eight-hour sleep regularly. Practicing yoga can definitely help with that. Whether you decide to do a quick 10-minute flow or a short meditation before going to bed, you will feel more relaxed and fall asleep easier. Therefore, yoga can be a great tool when fighting insomnia. And I think everyone would agree that a better sleep quality means better overall well-being, and more happiness, which we all desire so much.