These are just a few of the highlights of this year’s Summer Youth Development Academy, which wrapped up on August 5 as we said farewell to an amazing group of middle and high school students. Throughout the four weeks of Summer YDA, which took place at the beautiful campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, 261 middle and high school students discovered the courage they need to return as an Everyday Hero to their community.

Middle school students applied themselves to tackling complex concepts in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Lab. With new requirements for graduation, these YDA students will have a head start, entering high school with preliminary practice in physics. In Leadership, students analyzed the superhero’s journey to greatness and considered their own path to becoming someone who accepts the call and challenge of living to serve for the good of others. In teambuilding and swimming, students practiced active living while developing confidence, new skills, and being part of a group committed to everyone’s success.

In addition, students put their learning into action by giving back to the community, working hard to help improve the landscaping at the Old Wilmington Library. Middle school students from session two worked with Mars Food employees and Phillips 66 to bring garden boxes, mosaic planters, and a mural to the campus of Academies of Education and Empowerment in Carson. These service learning opportunities provided students with an experience to test their new-found knowledge of leadership and see firsthand the impact of helping others.

The high school students learned about community impact, gained important life knowledge such as financial literacy tips, and were encouraged to pursue their dreams thanks to special guest speakers who dropped by to pass on their wisdom. The students in turn inspired peers and staff with their heartfelt concern for communities. The 9th-graders created and produced a theater performance highlighting the impact of leaders positively raising their voice to address the apathy and animosity they experience. They demonstrated that courageous friendship and true concern can change our communities for the better. The 10th-12th-grade students built social media advocacy campaigns to highlight a community challenge. Their energy, collaboration, and passion for better communities is inspiring.

One high school student reflected, “I have been to a lot of camps and this one is about love. At other places, kids will get picked on if they don’t do something perfect; here I was immediately accepted and everyone is cheered on to keep trying.” Not all heroes wear capes, but the Everyday Heroes of Summer YDA know that the best way to be awesome is to always wear kindness, initiative, and integrity. Sharefest is proud to send these students out as ambassadors of hope, and hope to see many of them return to YDA next year!

View photos from the 2016 Sharefest Youth Development Academy

Middle School Session 1 Recap Video

Middle School Session 2 Recap Video

9th Grade Recap Video

10-12th Grade Recap Video