Serving as our flagship program, ZYEP’s summer camp grew from a simple question: “What are you doing this summer?” ZYEP founder and local pediatrician, Tom Faber, asked his young patients this question as a way of breaking the ice during checkups. The kids’ responses led to the realization that many Zuni kids did not have opportunities to be active, creative, or connect to the strengths within Zuni over the summer and after school. Inspired by the idea that summers should be a special time for Zuni kids when they explore their lands, learn new things, make new friends, and have fun, a small group of community members planned the first annual ZYEP summer camp in 2009. That first camp was a huge success for kids and adults alike, and it helped instill a belief that together we could contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. Since then, ZYEP has become a nonprofit organization that is committed to guiding Zuni youth to grow into healthy adults that are rooted in their culture and traditions. Each summer, we celebrate the program that made this all happen.
ZYEP’s flagship program is a five-week summer camp serving 200 Zuni youth annually. By integrating Zuni culture into education, physical activity, nutrition, gardening, and art activities, our summer camp enhances our youth participants’ learning and health, while giving them a deeper connection to their traditions. At camp, caring mentors find meaningful ways to teach youth Zuni language, traditional gardening, art, social dances, and more about what makes them special. These culturally enriching activities are blended with a conventional camp curriculum that includes: S.T.E.M., nutrition, sports, games, and holistic wellness. Our young campers report improvements across many health indicators like enjoyment of physical activity, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, improved peer and mentor relationships, and deeper connections to Zuni culture. The combination of fun and educational activities, outdoor engagement, Zuni culture, and supportive relationships, builds resilience for Zuni youth and supports them to live out the incredible talents they possess.
In addition to providing activities for our campers (ages 6-12), summer camp also incorporates mentoring experiences for Zuni teens and young adults (ages 15-24) who serve as camp counselors. In preparation for their mentor roles, the camp counselors engage in a leadership development program consisting of an outdoor retreat to a culturally significant site, professional development workshops, and daily group sessions. ZYEP’s camp counselor program helps the young adults develop communication, leadership, and mentoring skills; higher education and career goals; and valuable work experience. Every year, camp counselors comment on their positive experiences and personal growth.
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