Sharefest conducted one four-week SYDA session in 2017 – July 10-August 4 – reaching a total of 224 students:

  • Middle School (Grades 7-8) – 88 students
  • High School (Grades 9-12) – 136 students

Sessions were held from 8am-1pm, Monday-Friday on the campus of California State Dominguez Hills in Carson.

This report summarizes the demographics of the student participants and the program’s impact.


More females than males participated in SYDA (136 Female, 88 Male). Ethnicity of participants is represented by the following:

  • 55% – Latino/Hispanic
  • 27% – Black/African American
  • 9% – Asian
  • 8.5% – White
  • 2% – Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
  • 2% – Other
  • 0.5% – American Indian

The largest group by grade level was the 9th graders, with 60 students, followed by 49 8th graders. 129 (57.5%) of participants were returning, having participated in at least one past summer. 42% of participants received transportation. 62% of program participants qualify for government food assistance, reflective of familial economic vulnerability.


The 2017 Summer YDA: “Agents of Change” included programming designed to explore areas of social justice and a student’s ability to improve the common good through acts of compassion, cooperation, and service projects to create positive change. With opportunities to explore their unique perspective in history, students learned the importance of becoming a person willing to do the hard work of leading by serving others in need through acts of genuine friendship that can shift stereotypes and create sustainable change.

All students participated in weekly swimming and team building.

Weekly movie days provided participants a chance to examine fictional and historical characters who displayed leadership attributes and created transformational social change. Through 42: The Jackie Robinson Story, Zootopia, Hidden Figures, and Beauty and the Beast students witnessed how courage, compassion, critical thinking, cooperation, and commitment produce leaders and progress to adjust harmful sociological circumstances.


Based on the findings from Building Quality Learning Programs: Approaches and Recommendations (McLaughlin and Pitcock, 2009), Middle School students participated in a four-week camp in 2017. Adding additional two weeks aligns with the research supporting that 80 hours or more of programming is needed to experience positive impact.

Core classes for middle school students included Leadership and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Middle school students also participated in daily circuit training to improve physical fitness, goal-setting, and resiliency.

In leadership, the medium of creative writing and spoken word guided students through valuable skills of analysis and reflection on the cultural landscape of social justice and identified ways in which they can become courageous influencers of compassion and cooperation.

A student’s reflection:

“[Our instructor] Derrick taught us to believe in our ideas and to speak out about things that aren’t right.”

The STEM Lab, led by Sharefest partner Ourfoods, introduced students to urban gardening as a pathway to change. Students discovered concepts and relevance of gardening in community development as a means of addressing food insecurity and water shortages. Students employed STEM skills in problem-solving and innovating a creation of a community garden.

One student commented on their STEM experience:

“I learned that good food sources are important for communities to be healthy. In STEM Lab, I enjoyed learning about sustainable ways to grow food and I’m excited to grow more foods at home.”

Middle school students culminated their learning with a service project at a local site. Led by 12th grade students, middle school students expanded the GRoW Community Garden in Watts. During the 2017 Workday, four sustainable, raised-bed planter boxes and a large-scale aquaponics system were installed on-site. During the SYDA Day of Service, students installed two more boxes, learned how the aquaponics system functions and is maintained, and harvested crops growing in the previously-installed boxes. This garden is fully accessible to and used by many families in the Watts community.

See more of the middle school experience by viewing their recap video.



Improv was the core class for 9th grade leadership. Through improv, students explored topics of social justice while improving their communication skills, critical thinking, confidence, and cooperation skills.

The Study Skills class helped prepare participants with writing skills and mindsets to succeed in their new career as a highschool student.

9th grade students also participated in a service learning project at Harbor Interfaith Services in San Pedro. Students prepared and handed out 140 lunch bags to the homeless and working poor as a part of the #HashtagLunchbag initiative.

Reflecting on the experience, a student said:

“Summer YDA helps get you out of your comfort zone to try new things. It teaches you many life skills for the future.”

Leadership thru Advocacy and Study Skills for High School Success were the core classes for 10th-11th Grade students.

In leadership, students explored community concerns and identified one that is of a personal concern to them. They researched solutions and developed a Point of View advocacy presentation to raise awareness for social change. This class culminated in the Voices of Hope advocacy presentation at the Asomugha Foundation. Attended by local government and school officials, business leaders, and parents, each student expressed their concerns and convictions for improving community life.

One student said about her experience:

“I learned my voice really matters.”

In Study Skills for High School Success students examined and practiced skills for navigating the academic and social challenges of high school.

A student’s reflection:

“I learned the importance of setting goals and not giving up when things get hard.”

Core classes for 12th grade students were Service Learning and Life Skills for College Success.

Seniors culminated their YDA experience by practicing leadership by guiding other camp participants in service projects to benefit the community. First, they led 60 9th grade students through a #HashtagLunchbag event, then the led 90 middle school students through the GRoW Garden expansion. Using a service learning approach, seniors honed their research and project management skills.

A student reflecting on the service projects said:

“My best memory of Summer YDA was seeing how happy the homeless people were when they at the lunches we made for them.”

In Life Skills for College Success, incoming seniors examined and practiced skills for navigating the academic and social challenges of college. Students also had the opportunity to learn stress management methods with Abby Withee, LMFT.

One unique feature of the 10-12th grade program is the inclusion of weekly guests who share about their life and leadership experiences with the students. These guests are chosen from a variety of community spheres to demonstrate to the students that leadership can be expressed in business, government, education, and nonprofit ventures.

One student made this comment after a guest’s visit:

“Listening to the guests helped me realize that everyone has a challenge to overcome. That really inspired me.”

All 9-12th grade students participated in Move It: a dance class, exploring the history of dance as social change agent and learning various dance techniques. Students worked together to choreograph a creative expression of positive change and performed it in front of their peers on the last day of camp.

See more of the high school experience by viewing their recap video.



At the conclusion of the summer program, all students were given a feedback survey. Students also provided additional written comments, and Sharefest recorded some of the verbal reports at the student culmination celebrations. Italics indicate student quotes. Some students provided multiple responses to some questions.

Middle School – Favorite Part of the Program:

20% of respondents indicated swimming was their favorite part of Summer YDA. An additional 20% indicated making new friends was their favorite part of Summer YDA.
Followed next by 18% of respondents listing leadership as their favorite.

Some quotes regarding these favorite activities:

“I learned to speak up for the things I believe in.”

“We learned so much about the need to be who we are and to be confident.”

9th Grade – Favorite Part of the Program:

26% of respondents indicated team building and swimming were their favorite parts of Summer YDA. Followed next by 21% indicating that Improv/Leadership was their favorite.

Some quotes regarding these favorite activities:

“Improv class helped me feel more comfortable talking in front of others.”

“Summer YDA has helped me become a better leader and also to let my words be heard.”

10-11th Grade – Favorite Part of the Program:

32% of respondents indicated teambuilding (or dodgeball) was their favorite part of Summer YDA. 40% of participants said that the POV presentation was their best memory of YDA.

A student reflected:

“Speaking at the Asomugha Foundation helped me know that my ideas are important. People listened to what I had to say! I need to keep speaking up for things to change.”

12th Grade – Favorite Part of the Program:

25% of respondents indicated conducting the service projects were their favorite part of Summer YDA. An additional 25% indicated dance was their favorite part.

Room for Program Improvement:

29% of respondents said YDA would be improved with different lunch options. An additional 29% of respondents said YDA would be improved with more swimming. 35% of Middle School respondents desired more experiments and interaction in the STEM Lab. An additional 16% would like to see more athletics.

Student testimonials from the last day of camp expressed social, emotional, academic, and leadership growth.


Post programming surveys evaluated the impact of the students’ YDA experience.

Middle School students assessed themselves in the following:

  • 75% agreed they have skills that are helpful for improving the lives of others
  • 73% view themselves as leaders
  • 87% enjoy doing service projects to help others
  • 72% believe they have opportunities to help change things for their communities
  • 96% believe Sharefest staff are good role models
  • 89% report learning a new skill at YDA
  • 97% report making new friends at YDA
  • 96% believe YDA challenged them to think in new ways
  • 89% report learning specific ways to be an agent of change in their community

High School students assessed themselves in the following way:

  • 95% think of themselves as good students
  • 100% plan to graduate from high school
  • 97% plan to graduate from college
  • 74% feel involved in the decisions made in their community
  • 92% feel their Sharefest Summer YDA experience makes them more excited about learning
  • 97% feel Sharefest Summer YDA gives them a better understanding of how skills learned in school are used in the real world
  • 92% attend Summer YDA because it helps them achieve personal goals

One student commented:

“I love Summer YDA so much. It keeps this light in me every year and it makes me want to learn more.”

Parents completing post-programming surveys provided the following feedback:

“Mom, why can’t school be like YDA? Where kids come behave and want to learn. Mom have you ever heard of Aquaponics? Mom, let me tell you about the Gangster Gardener? Mom, do you know about the Laundry mat that allows people to wash their clothes for free.” Whenever my son gets in the car he has something to tell me about his day at YDA…most times without me asking. He has declared that it is the best camp he has experienced and wants to continue through high school. His swimming skills have improved. He is learning, without feeling like it’s a burden. He was very nervous about coming since this would be the first camp without any of his 3 siblings also attending. He thanks me every week for finding YDA. He has developed friendships with his peers and respect for the team in charge. Thanks for all you have done to help nurture his leadership skills and love for learning.”

“[My son] is much more confident in what he says and believes. I’m very proud.”

“My child was not expecting to like YDA, however, that changed the first day.”

“They enjoyed every bit of it, gained more confidence in public speaking, team building and service to others.”

“It is an absolute empowering program. It’s fun, educational and teaches so many different life lessons.”