Recent Programs: 2019 Encampment
Youth Activists Making Connections for Change
“The Encampment is a program where young people who are passionate about making change come together. We meet different [local] communities and relate [their issues] back to our own communities. We talk about the issues and how we can solve them. The Encampment is a great way for students to develop their minds and be challenged by students from across the country from different racial backgrounds and different economic situations. They all come together and form something special.”
— Elijah, Harlem, NY
The EFC prepares young people to be informed and responsible global citizens and leaders in the struggle for social justice. Encampers (ages 15–18) of different ethnic, religious, gender identity, geographic and economic backgrounds live and learn together, creating a diverse democratic community inspired and prepared to create a more just world. Arts are woven through the curriculum as a means of individual and group expression and as an organizing tool. Speakers, service projects and field trips provide concrete examples of successful community responses to social problems. These experiences go home with them, along with hope and confidence in their ability to be change makers.
Encampers explored several different kinds of farms, integrating issues connected to immigration, labor and the environment. Photo: Julio Alcala.
Youth Activists Making Connections for Change
“I learned several things this summer, but if I had to pick one, I would say that I learned how powerful community organizing and community revitalizing can be.”
— Ayana, Brockton, MA
“It was amazing to canvass with the CAUSE organization (Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy) regarding renters’ rights. I got to participate in direct action on an issue. Even though I only got surveys from three people, hearing the stories of each person made me realize how much of an issue housing is in Oxnard. Going canvassing made me feel like I actually connected to people and their issues instead of just hearing on the news how bad America is.”
– Masud, East Orange, NJ
Encampers canvassing with CAUSE in Oxnard. Ayana holding housing survey (forefront), Monica, Petua and Barry (background). Photo: Julio Alcala.
Encampers directly experienced the beauty, resilience and power of communities in Ventura County and Los Angeles and witnessed positive responses to social problems.
"We visited communities that are often portrayed negatively in the media, and found the beauty in the local people and artwork. We learned about real-life everyday problems that people face. The first moment that really opened up my mind was visiting an organic and community-based farm. The second experience was Homeboys Industries. This experience really hit home for me because it allowed me to open up my heart to the fact that people really can turn their whole lives around when given the correct type of support. Seeing the ‘gang capital of the world’ have a center where people who have been caught up in the system can work together to change their community is incredibly powerful."
– Monica, Amherst, MA
Encampers talk with a member of Homeboys Industries.
The curriculum focused on environmental, immigration and labor issues — topics that have local, state, national and global resonance. Encampers learn through research, speakers, field trips and direct experiences of creating their own community and working with local organizations, linking community issues with the larger picture. As the young people explored the particular issues in Southern California, they were able to make connections to the problems in their home communities and globally. They returned home with inspiration, tools and action plans.
“We talked to the employees at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), and I couldn’t help but be in awe at all the legislation they’ve lobbied for and passed. The work they do has a genuine and immediate impact on the lives of many incarcerated people. That visit showed me the power of teamwork, and of using your voice. I also learned how to lobby, and I’ll be looking deeper into it once I get back home.”
– Mazai, New York, NY
In another workshop, Encampers met with staff and participants of the Mixteco/Indígena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), an organization dedicated to aiding, organizing and empowering the Mixteco population in Ventura County. The workshop expanded the Encampers’ exploration of concrete responses to social problems in health, literacy and communication issues. Members of the Tequio youth group, including EFC intern Litzy Hernandez and alum Rosita Lopez, shared organizing activities that develop the leadership skills of indigenous Mexican youth. MICOP and the Tequio youth group have successfully lobbied with other groups to create safe places in schools for undocumented youth through the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 699 (2017).
Encampers with MICOP staff and participants.
Year-Round Project Initiated at Summer Program
This year, Ventura County Encampers made connections between the issues of immigration, labor and the environment that directly affect their community. Many of their families and friends are immigrants and work in the fields where they are exposed to pesticides, but people don’t have to work in the fields to be exposed to pesticides that are used routinely in public landscaping — including at elementary schools. One way they are putting that knowledge and their skills to work is the Pesticide-Free School Project (PFSP) funded by the Patagonia Environmental Grants Program, New Tudor Foundation and Clif Bar Family Foundation. PFSP is a community-centered project that provides opportunities for continued engagement after the summer program.
On July 6, community members gathered with Encampers and staff to learn about the effects of pesticide use. They then took the first step to transform Rio Lindo Elementary School into the first 100% organically landscaped school in the county by applying compost tea. Dr. David White from the Center for Regenerative Agriculture provided expertise, compost and equipment. Other community members included beneficial-bug growers, a pesticide reform activist and master gardeners. People of all ages shared organic vegetarian pesticide-free tamales made earlier by the Encampers with Project Coordinator Florencia Ramirez, author of Eat Less Water: “Healthy soil holds water up to 1,000 times more than soil treated with chemicals, sequesters carbon, and is better for the adjoining river and the health of the school community.”
“Working with the community to create a pesticide-free school truly showed me the power of unity and community, and reinforced my belief in the power of the people.”
— Omar, New York, NY
The next Pesticide-Free School Compost Tea Party will be held on Friday, November 15, at Rio Del Sol School, on the banks of the Santa Clara River in El Rio, California. Click here for more information.
Pesticide-Free School Project: Dr. David White, director of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture, provided compost, equipment and expert guidance for the project. Encampers and community members applied the organic soil and compost tea. Photo: Julio Alcala.
Project Coordinator Florencia Ramirez (left, making tamales with the Encampers). Photo: @agmuphotography.
Connections between Cultures
During the beginning days of the 2019 Encampment, when the young people were sharing their cultures and building their EFC community, they participated in a local Guelaguetza in Oxnard. The Guelaguetza is a Oaxacan cultural celebration that honors communal work and strengthens the establishment of a community. Mixteco Encampers, EFC interns and alums introduced the history and culture of the Guelaguetza to the Encampers before they joined the community celebration, which featured music and dancing and other local arts.
“The field trips, such as our visits to the Guelaguetza Festival (an indigenous Mixteco festival), Homeboy Industries (training and work for former gang members), Abundant Table (an organic farm), and others were extremely impactful. It is very easy to fall into a hole of the disparities of society, but seeing these positive platforms of change is really empowering, and I never would have seen these things with the mindset I was in anywhere else but the Encampment.”
— Petua, Amherst, MA
Encampers and other Guelaguetza participants. Photo: Julio Alcala.
As part of an exploration of the role of public art in shaping culture and provoking inquiry, the Encampers visited several murals, starting with a powerful example in the La Colonia neighborhood of Oxnard representing iconic figures in Chicano culture. They moved on to the Nipsey Hussle mural, honoring this entrepreneur who represented economic empowerment for African Americans. They also visited Playa de Culturas in Los Angeles, where the restored Siqueiros mural America Tropical is housed. A powerful representation of Siquieros’s political beliefs, it shows the power of art to generate thought and dialogue in the community.
Encampment group in front of the La Colonia mural. Photo: @agmuphotography.
Encampers in front of the Nipsey Hussle mural in LA. Photo: Julio Alcala.
This trip to LA included a visit to the Floricanto Center for the Performing Arts, where EFC alum (1966 DC) and board member David Sandoval brought together activists from the 1960s East LA Chicano Movement to talk with the Encampers. As part of this larger discussion of activism, Vickie Castro shared her experience in the historic East LA School Walkout, when 20,000 high school students walked out to protest unequal educational conditions for Mexican-American youth. Gema Sandoval, artistic director of the Floricanto Center, spoke about the role of the artist in community organizing.
Vickie Castro talking about her experiences as a young activist. Photo: Julio Alcala
David Sandoval (left) talks with Ben Caldwell during the Encampers’ tour of Leimert Park. Photo: Julio Alcala.
Encampers explored the thriving African-American businesses and culture of Leimert Park and learned about economic empowerment through pooling resources.
They spoke with Ben Caldwell, who talked about the history of African Americans in LA, using the arts as a tool for social justice and current issues of gentrification. Caldwell opened KAOS Network as a community media lab in 1990. He led the Encampers on a tour of Leimert Park to visit numerous Black-owned businesses. In particular, they explored Art and Practice, which featured an exhibit about Black film makers and films.
“Many of the activities we did during the LA field trips challenged my assumptions, especially Ben Caldwell. Before the Encampment, I was not too confident that art could make large social changes. I think that learning about KAOS Network and Leimert Park helped me understand that social activism can look like a lot of different things.”
— Sarahi, Oxnard, CA
Ben Caldwell, local artist and activist, leads a tour of Leimert Park showcasing Black-owned businesses. Photo: Julio Alcala.
The 2019 Encampment provided direct experiences related to food production, combining immigration, environmental and labor issues. At least 57% of farmworkers in Ventura County in 2016 were undocumented. Farms and farmworkers are vulnerable to climate change, water usage and pesticides issues, so looking at farm labor integrates all of those issues. Encampers divided into three groups to visit three different farms. They spoke with the growers and farm workers, and tasted organic and non-organic strawberries. The Encampers later compared their experiences in the large group and discussed issues of quality and expense.
Later that day, they met at Villa Cesar Chavez (a farm worker housing complex) with Barbara Macri-Ortiz, a long-time community activist and attorney who worked closely with Cesar Chavez. She continues to fight for the rights of farmworkers, particularly in fair housing. She was inspirational for the Encampers:
“I was grateful to meet with Barbara [Macri-Ortiz] because she is a living library of knowledge. I remember her telling the group that … when you think you are defeated that’s when something comes to lift you up. This made me reflect on everything in my life that I consider a loss and how certain things ended up working and being beneficial to me. It really helped to change my perspective.”
— Jamie, Antioch, CA
Farmworker issues took on an immediate and compelling personal nature when Adriana’s parents visited the Encampment and spoke about their lives. Mr. and Mrs. Diaz spoke of the challenges of being immigrant workers and the working conditions in the fields. Mr. Diaz spoke passionately about the importance of education that he and his wife lack but have worked hard to give to their children. In addition, Adriana learned more about the larger issues and realized she needs to fight for her rights as a farmworker.
“I am from Ventura County, but there are some issues we went over that I was not aware of before the Encampment. Getting more exposure to what the farmworkers are going through reminded me that I have a responsibility as a current field worker to advocate for my people to receive fair treatment out in the fields.”
– Adriana, Oxnard
Learning by Doing — Service Learning
The Farm to School Program uses grant funds and donations to establish school gardens. Food from the gardens is harvested for nutrition education activities, use in the culinary programs or served in the school cafeteria.
“We are helping Rio Mesa High School remodel a zen garden — it will be a place for people to de-stress if they are having a stressful day at school. We’re weeding and bringing in new plants and painting the raised beds; there will be a water fountain and a mural.”
– Petua, Amherst, MA
"I helped to renovate an elementary school garden by replacing the soil with pesticide-free soil. I learned about the effects of pesticides on people and the soil, as well as how it can affect areas that the pesticides weren’t originally in due to water runoff. I got a tour of an organic farm and got to see and taste the difference between non-organic and organic strawberries. On top of these experiences, I met people from my area who I plan to work with in the future since we have similar goals and live so close to each other."
– Barry, San Leandro
Kevon working at Farm to School. Photo: Adriana Campos-Ojeda.
The Abundant Table organic farm hosted a service learning opportunity that focused on learning about indigenous agricultural practices, cooking freshly harvested crops and being in community. Encampers learned to harvest by asking the plants for permission and thanking them; conducted seed germination tests; gave strawberry plants a haircut; and cooked freshly harvested nopales (cactus) and chard. They wrapped up their service learning experience with a special medicinal plant workshop, “Healing the Soul,” through MICOP and a visit to the Downtown Oxnard Farmers’ Market with children from Friends of Fieldworkers’ summer camp.
“Participating in the Encampment has allowed me to broaden my horizons and expand my mind. I had the privilege of interning at The Abundant Table, an organic farm in the city of Oxnard. I was able to learn about the perks of organic farming and to work the land. Being able to get closer to nature and understand how the food we consume affects our communities was stupendous.”
— David, Jackson, MS
Californians for Pesticide Reform (CPR) is a statewide coalition of more than 190 organizations, founded in 1996 to fundamentally shift the way pesticides are used in California. Encampers learned about pesticides, their impact on the environment and ways to address the issues.
“At my service learning project at Pesticide Reform, we learned about all the bad stuff that is meant to control pests, including weeds. The term pesticide includes all of the following: herbicides, insecticides nematicide, molluscicide, piscicide, avicide, rodenticide. It's not just hurting the farmworkers who are working 365 days a year, sunup to sundown, for so little money, which is not cool; it’s hurting everyone. That’s why I need to make a difference!”
– Joel, Ventura, CA
Future Leaders of America provides a comprehensive youth empowerment program in our public schools and in the community year-round. Encampers worked on current initiatives by phone banking and preparations for the FLA’s youth leadership conference.
“I chose this service learning project because I wanted to work with students from Ventura County. I’m on a path to make change in my school and community, and communities beyond my community.”
— Shamia, Jackson, MS
Exploring the Unique Environment of Santa Cruz Island
Channel Islands National Park – A special grant from dedicated donors made it possible for the Encampers to experience the wonder of nature and learn about environmental challenges and successes at this unique national park.
“The field trip to Channel Islands National Park was a chance for me to explore. It was my first time hiking and it was fantastic!”
— Adriana, Oxnard, CA
“The narrative the tour guides were giving us connected the land to the sea. I was particularly interested in the intersection with other parts of the EFC curriculum. For instance, they talked about the effects of pesticides on the endemic wildlife, using the example of DDT. Rachel Carson was one of the first people to call attention to this serious issue, but by the mid-1950s, it was too late for the bald eagle population on the islands. The DDT that was being used on the crops was running off into the ocean and making its way to the islands. Bald eagles would eat fish that were contaminated with DDT and over time, their eggs began to crumble, causing their extinction. In the 1960s, a program was started to reintroduce the eagles to the islands (https://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/nature/bald-eagles.htm).”
— Florencia Ramirez, coordinator of the Pesticide-Free School Project initiated at the 2019 Encampment
“I want to say a special thank you for making the trip to Santa Cruz Island possible. During the trip, I was able to watch dolphins and sea lions for the first time in the wild. The views of the sea and the beauty of the island were breathtaking, and I learned quite a bit about the island's history as well as the endemic species found there.”
— Ayana, Brockton, MA
Encampers and staff at Channel Islands National Park. Photo: 2019 Documentation Team.
Encampers had their choice of three core workshops that explored the themes of (im)migration, climate change and labor. The smaller groups allowed the Encampers to delve more deeply into these topics by developing arts presentations, research and discussions.
(Im)migration Workshop. Photo: Julio Alcala.
Climate Change Workshop. Photo: Julio Alcala.
Labor Workshop. Photo: Julio Alcala.
“This year, I learned how to facilitate whole group conversations so young leaders learn and grow from difficult conversations. I learned how to work as a team and how to create a month-long curriculum about (im)migration and implement it in engaging ways. I learned how to change the curriculum so young people learn what they wanted to learn instead of what I thought people needed to know. I had to learn how to teach about migration not as a singular event, but as an ongoing event with which every Encamper had a relationship.”
– Litzy Hernandez, EFC alum and 2019 intern
Encampment Interns: Nevaeh, Angel Mendez, Nia Allen and Litzy Hernandez. Photo: Julio Alcala.
During the last weekend of the summer program, Encampers share what they are learning with parents, alums, supporters and local community members. This year, they were joined during the evening presentations by local musicians Mariachi Inlakech and excerpts from the opera El Bracero, directed by Javier Gomez.
The InterGen …
“is a chance to hear directly from young people what their concerns are, what they are passionate about, how they see that they may make an impact in their community or the larger community. They meet with adults from a variety of backgrounds, some of whom have had experience in a variety of civil rights/social justice work, parents, and teachers all discussing and learning from each other. It is a unique experience that doesn’t happen often and an opportunity to provide shared info or support to a young person.”
– Sandy Weil, EFC supporter
"In our last week, I helped to build a community garden at Rio Mesa High School. I canvassed with CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy) regarding renters’ rights and developed some action steps to take home with me. I connected with Encampment supporters and alumni during InterGen weekend, and that let me know I had a support system to lean on when I got home. Overall, my Encampment experience was one full of increased knowledge and experience, and I am forever grateful to have had this experience."
– Bernice, Newark, NJ
EFC InterGen: Line dance at the 2019 InterGen, board chair Ada Deer (second from left). Photo: Adriana Campos-Ojeda.
EFC InterGen: From left, 2019 Encamper Leti, Wellness & Recreation co-coordinator Amina Jordan-Mendez, participants Dave McClary and Sandy Weil (pointing) with art activity at 2019 InterGen. Photo: Adriana Campos-Ojeda.
EFC InterGen: 2019 Encamper presentation at the InterGen. Photo: Adriana Campos-Ojeda.
In 2019, Encampers had multiple experiences that provided:
- clear examples of things they can do
- practical models of successful strategies for social change
- and confidence in their abilities to be a successful change makers
Anika Nailah and board member Evelin Aquino assisted Encampers with their action plans, as well as, with their creative works for the InterGen.
To provide more support for translating this knowledge into action, the Encampment invited Fish Stark, director, Fellows-in-Residence, for Peace First, to provide a framework for making an action plan and sharing the grant resources available online through Peace First. Stark travels to 135 countries implementing Peace First’s programs to recruit, train and fund youth activists.
“Right now, it feels like there are a lot of reasons to be angry at the world. But young people are stepping up and pushing back — rallying for compassion and justice in a way we haven’t seen for decades.”
— Fish Stark
Fish Stark with the 2019 Encampers.
2019 Encampers are Developing Action Plans to Address:
- Animal neglect/abuse/abandonment, etc.
- Have informational parties all across to my city so that I can bring awareness to the political and environmental issues going on
- Advocating for safe sex
- Make a place that teens that can express themselves through the arts
- Urban gardening will be used as a tool for engendering community pride
- Develop a youth center closer to the youth in my town
- Create a video game that portrays people of color as people rather than characters
- Collaborate with organizations around me to advocate for farmworkers’ rights
- Create a youth center in the Bronx that provides them with the services they need but don’t have access to
- Create a community of empowered queer youth activists dedicated to inspiring and reaching out to younger members of the LGBTQ+ community
- Work with youth programs to stop gang violence
- Create a space for young artists to embrace their talent, and gain exposure
- Develop a community service club that focuses on members’ needs and talents to create change in our school community and give exposure to students in Amherst and beyond
- Create a club at my school that will provide career education and guidance towards reaching the level of education required
- Start or support a pesticide-free community garden where youth in my community can learn about gardening
- Start a youth weekend and youth community center
- Create a multi-step curriculum/workshops that will be taught at several schools and states addressing under-representation, education and cultural understanding about communities of color in private/residential schools
- Address teenage alcoholism by having recovered alcoholics talk to them
- Give free back-to-school supplies to kids who can’t afford supplies in my community or school
- Create a space for black and indigenous youth to express themselves creatively