I used to spend one week of my summer at a Leadership camp. I would take anywhere between 10 and 20 youth with me to camp. The purpose of this camp is to build strong leaders but with a major fitness component as well. Unfortunately the fitness component was the piece made some of the classes very hard and labor intensive. Each year you attended you took classes and if you failed a class, you didn’t progress to the next year but if you choose to return, you would still be the same year class. The program ran for 6 years before you had to be an advisor or on staff as a teacher. The fact that there were pass or fail classes and honestly some of the teachers were harsh about it was one of the things that upset me about this camp. If it hadn’t been part of my job, I don’t think I would have taken my youth there.
Most of my youth absolute loved the experience. There were few that went one year and didn’t go back. Most of my youth were in very good shape and passed all their classes and tests with flying colors. Throughout all my time at this camp, I brought one youth with me named Rebecca. Rebecca played a major role in all the activities that I had available. She would always come and participate. I can still remember that smile and her laugh. She was a sweetheart. Rebecca was a heavier set youth and struggled with the fitness testing and the classes that she had to take. We would often work on it but it was hard for her some years.
My last year attending this camp, Rebecca was taking a class with a teacher who was an older gentleman that had been a part of the school for forty years. He was very strict about the physical fitness part of camp. Throughout the week, Rebecca would come and talk to me and tell me that she can’t do what she needs to do in the class and that the teacher gets frustrated with her and she thought she was going to fail. We talked about it and worked on some things and she felt she had gotten better as the week went on and was very confident that she had improved enough by the end of the week to pass the clock.
On the last day, the advisors have to go to each class and listen to see if all their youth have passed the class. I walked into the classroom and sat down. The teacher read the list and when he got to Rebecca’s name, he said “Sorry by Rebecca failed the class.” I looked at him and went up to talk to him. I asked him why and he told me that she had improved but not enough to pass. I was devastated. I was angry. I was fighting back tears. How was I supposed to go out and tell this youth that I love and tries so hard that she failed the class?
I walked out and Rebecca was waiting for me on the stairs. I took one look at her and she took one look at me and I burst out into tears. “I’m sorry you didn’t pass girlie,” I said with tears running down my cheeks. She reached for me and I hugged her up. She started to cry and for a long time we stood there on the stairs together, hugging and crying. Eventually she wiped the tears from her eyes and said, “it’s okay, I’ll pass it next year.” I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and said, “that’s right, you will pass it next year.”
It is such a shame that such a wonderful camp and experience for her had to end like that, but I think we both grew from the experience. I know that God was working through her that day. He showed me that I truly care so much for my youth. He should me that through his love our youth have strength and resilience that will help them make it through tough situations. He showed me that even if I don’t agree with the outcome; his love will shine through and put a ray of hope in my heart.
It is tough to watch one of my youth cry, but even tougher when I am crying with them. Rebecca will always be a special memory in my head of a youth that I cared so much for that I was able to express my true emotions and cry with her. She was the rock and the one to state that she had next year!