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.