“As assistant counselors in training, we are ambassadors of the Hidden Villa legacy who strive to both learn from and teach about our experiences at Hidden Villa, not only to other campers, but to our friends, families and communities."
-Assistant Counselors in Training Mission Statement 2013
Three weeks ago I met Hidden Villa’s Assistant Counselors in Training (ACT) participating in the first session of their training course. These young people, the majority of whom have attended Hidden Villa camp for nine or more years, emphasized that, “Hidden Villa is not just a summer place, but a place where people can find themselves.” In the training they are learning, sharing and reflecting on their deeply impactful experiences in hopes of creating the same value for future campers.
As I listen to these mature, young adults speak about their experiences I’m encouraged by their ability to consider the life lessons they’ve learned throughout the years at Hidden Villa. “We’re here to learn to be mentors and through the process we’ll be able to develop our leadership skills.” Leadership, as they explain, entails developing the skills to have a healthy dialogue, learning to be professional, and recognizing how our attitudes affect others. They recognize the importance of having a safe space where they can share, learn, and grow. “Sharing is nourishing. If you have an idea and want to make change, you can inspire others. Then, you’ll start a movement of awesomeness.” They also realize that they are leaders for one another, “If someone is not getting it, we can mentor one another.” What a beautiful understanding of the mutual learning processes at play!
Often, these conversations about both leadership and mentorship are happening at school, but the youth don’t feel they are often able practice these skills in real life situations. “As ACT’s we are getting ready for actual jobs. This is an internship where you get experience supervising kids, animals, being responsible for other individuals.” As they discuss their thoughts, I see their energy and excitement rise. They are a group of teenagers that recognize their role in the local and global community and are eager to go out and make change.
I walk away from the conversation trying to imagine the seven-year olds that these young adults once were. I consider the experiences that have helped them see the importance of facilitating social justice conversations, engaging children in environmental education, and building their professional and personal self-confidence. Soon, as sixteen and seventeen year olds, they will go off and pursue interests and careers as policy makers, educators, or farmers that shape our future. I have no doubts that these young minds are building strong foundations to be empathetic, thoughtful, and inspirational leaders.
Sofía Pablo-Hoshino is a San Francisco native and the newest Development Intern at Hidden Villa. She enjoys knitting, long conversations about life, and cilantro on any and all foods. She also recently harvested her first beet, ever!