Camp new to Saratoga County teaches bravery, coping skills to underserved youth

Most children go to sleepaway camp to learn survival skills for the wilderness. However, a camp new to New York is teaching children from Harlem survival skills for the real world.

‘Brave Camp’ is happening this week at Camp Stomping Ground in Middle Grove, Saratoga County.

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The camp teaches mindfulness, meditation and music to a group of preteens. The global nonprofit ‘Today, I’m Brave’ partnered with Harlem Youth United to recruit 36 under-resourced middle-schoolers ranging from 10 to 14 years old, at no cost to their families.

Thursday, campers participated in a team-building activity before experiencing a sound bath paired with a meditation on reaching their highest potential. They then wrote their dreams down on a ‘dream board.’

“Bravery is having the courage to be who you are. And that takes a lot of courage,” said ‘Today, I’m Brave’ Founder David Angelo.

Angelo says he founded the nonprofit and the camp, which hosted its first session last year in California, after he grew up without the means to go to camp. He founded the ad agency David & Goliath nearly 23 years ago, and as he found success as an adult, he says, he wanted to pay it forward. He founded ‘Today, I’m Brave’ in 2016, with an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The camp teaches community, empathy, adaptability and confidence. You can read more about the curriculum here.

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“There’s so much pressure in today’s world with social media and their peer groups and just growing up,” Angelo said, discussing the difficulties kids face in staying true to themselves.

At ‘Brave Camp,’ the campers write down their fears on rocks and watch them sink in the water.

“Once they understand who they are, then they can build the life that they’ve always wanted,” Angelo said. They can really crystallize their dreams, map out where they’re going and lead a life of authenticity. This is probably the best time that they can have this type of exposure because there are many more challenges that await them as they move into adulthood.”

Lyzayana Duran is about to start 7th grade. The camper says this week, she got to kayak for the first time. She also got to reflect on her fears.

“I have a fear of dying, fear of heights,” she said, listing them off. “It helped me realize, some things that you shouldn’t really be scared of because at the end of the day you can conquer them.”

Duran says the woods aren’t as bad as she thought.

“I was expecting camp food to be pretty bad, but it’s actually not,” she reported.

Camp wraps up at the end of the week, with the goal of bringing the same group of campers back for the next four years.