Powerful diversity program ‘Anytown’ impacts Tampa Bay youth through summer camps

Powerful diversity program ‘Anytown’ impacts Tampa Bay youth through summer camps

A group of Anytown students posing for a picture

At a time when topics of diversity, equity and inclusion are so important – and such a big part of the public and educational conversation – a treasured Tampa Bay program is making an incredible impact in local classrooms and neighborhoods. Anytown, one of the country’s most influential and transformative youth diversity programs, empowers thousands of young people to create more inclusive and just schools and communities where everyone is treated with respect and understanding.

Community Tampa Bay’s Anytown is an experiential and educational five-day youth camp hosted by Community Tampa Bay, and applications are now open for its two July 2022 sessions. Anytown begins each summer with an intensive 5-day, 4-night residential program and continues with a year of ongoing opportunities for service and leadership development utilizing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes developed through the program.

Anytown’s next session is July 11-15 for Hillsborough and Pinellas County students, and a session for Pasco County students takes place July 18-22. In addition to being a great way to jumpstart or advance leadership skills, the overnight camp is a fun experience where students play games, hang out in college dorms, enjoy all-you-can-eat-food three times a day, meet new people, and talk about themselves.

Each Anytown session brings together 50 to 60 high school youth who look differently, live differently, and love differently to build a culturally diverse and inclusive community from the ground up. The sessions are staffed by 20 to 30 volunteers, with a ratio of one volunteer for every two to three participants.

Anytown sets youth up to be leaders in their communities

Anytown students posing for a picture

The participants are delegates of their schools and their communities, who live, learn, and socialize alongside each other throughout the week. When delegates graduate from Anytown they will have engaged in transformative dialogue and meaningful cross-cultural interaction and be ready to build inclusive schools and communities free from all forms of discrimination.

Over the course of the five-day experience, every day at Anytown is a little bit different as chort members spend a lot of time as a large community, engaging in interactive workshops, icebreakers and teambuilders. Students get to know each other individually over meals three times a day and spend time in small groups reflecting on how prejudice, discrimination and stereotypes affect their own lives. Each day starts and ends in the dorms with their dorm families, a group of participants and counselors who often become lifelong friends.

Graduates of Anytown have gone on to serve in important and influential leadership roles in the community throughout Tampa Bay and across the country, and the testimonials from graduates of Anytown speak for themselves. Students say the Anytown experience not only enhanced their summer and helped them grow personally, but led to a change in the lives of the people around them and their educational experiences.

Said one graduate: “The most important thing I’ve ever done in my life is travel a few miles from my home, and out of my comfort zone, to a little place called Anytown.”

Learn more about Anytown and Community Tampa Bay here.

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