By Northeast Regional Organizer Emma Goldberg
This is the first in a series of five posts recapping STAND Camp 2012, our third annual summer training institute for students from around the country.
Capturing the spirit of STAND Camp is difficult. But one core chapter leader put her finger on it with a comment shared on Friday, the day the program kicked off. “STAND students are so unique,” she laughed. “They can bond over wonky presentations one minute and goofy ice breakers the next.” This sentiment is a pretty accurate description of STAND Camp, Day One.
Hailing from as far as the West Coast and as near as downtown DC, students converged on each other in a mass of energy at the Baltimore airport, eager to begin their long anticipated weekend. STAND Camp participants bonded over warm introductions, excited to meet their national network of fellow organizers.
Remember when we told you Michael Jackson was back? Well, he joined us at STAND Camp to kick off the weekend– in the form of Mickey Jackson, STAND’s new Student Director. Mickey welcomed chapter leaders and introduced this year’s Managing Committee. Overall, it was a true thriller of a presentation (apologies for the corny joke).
One of the merits of STAND Camp is that it offers students the opportunity to connect with current global affairs in a meaningful way, going beyond newspaper headlines to understanding the nuances of conflicts in Sudan, Syria, and elsewhere. Myra Dahgaypaw, Director of the US Campaign for Burma, delivered a presentation on the current conflict in Burma. Myra is a member of the Burmese diaspora and wove her personal narrative together with historical and geopolitical context. She was joined by Allyson Neville-Morgan, United to End Genocide’s Director of Media Relations and a long-time friend of STAND, who has contributed much policy expertise to the movement.
As Friday evening rolled around, the retreat center room was abuzz with conversation, laughter– and, of course, the sound of fingers typing away furiously, taking notes and taking over the Twittersphere. “@ANevilleMorgan and @uscb are briefing our @standnow core chapter leaders about the conflict in #Burma. #StandCamp.” Chapter leaders chimed in to respond to Myra and Allyson’s presentation with questions, commentary, and Tweets.
Continuing their study of contemporary atrocities, STAND Camp participants then received a briefing on Syria from Allyson Neville-Morgan and Dave Kienzler, an analyst for the Conflict Risk Network. Students’ prior knowledge of the conflict was evident given the insightful questions they shared. One student asked what type of government could be expected in a post-Assad Syria, and another questioned the Syrian government’s control over chemical weapons. As STAND’s Community Manager Shomya Tripathy so eloquently tweeted, “Never ceased to be amazed by the incredibly insightful and intelligent questions asked by @standnow kids. #standcamp.”
After several hours of educational briefings, students were ready to sit back and chow down in the Pearlstone Retreat Center’s dining room. STAND Camp participants challenged themselves to speak with unfamiliar faces and make new acquaintances over dinner, giggling over ice breakers like, "What’s the most embarrassing song on your iPod?" ("Call Me Maybe" was, naturally, a popular response.)
And what better way to end a first day of camp than with s’mores around a bonfire? Students enjoyed a discussion with Janessa Goldbeck, a STAND alum who recently completed a cross-country bike tour that promoted awareness about international development. At the closing of her presentation, Janessa shared a powerful story. While visiting a Congressional representative’s office to lobby for international development and foreign aid, she struck up a conversation with a Congressional staffer. The two began to discuss involvement with human rights organizations and Janessa quickly discovered that the staffer had been a member of a university STAND chapter! It’s a small world after all, at least in STAND Land. Janessa’s story was a reminder that the STAND students of today will be the policymakers of tomorrow– and that’s a thought as heartwarming as a good s’more.