Zuni Youth Enrichment Project’s (ZYEP) Summer Camp is where it all begins. The inspiration for summer camp grew from a simple question: “What are you doing this summer?”
ZYEP founder and local pediatrician, Tom Faber, would ask his young patients this question as a lighthearted way of breaking the ice during checkups. The kids’ responses led to the realization that many Zuni kids didn’t have opportunities to be active and creative over he summer. Inspired by the idea that summers should be a special time for Zuni kids when they explore their lands, learn new things, make friends, and have fun, a group of community members planned ZYEP’s firstannual summer camp in 2009.
That first camp was a huge success for the 25 kids that participated and the size of camp, along with its impact, continues to grow today, serving 200 youth annually.
By integrating Zuni culture into physical activity, nutrition, and art activities, ZYEP’s Summer Camp enhances the youth participants’ health while deepening their connection to Zuni traditions. At camp, youth are nurtured by caring mentors that find meaningful ways to teach Zuni language, art, social dances, traditional gardeningand more about what makes them special. These activities are offered alongside a conventional camp curriculum thatincludes science, nutrition, sports, games and self-care.
ZYEP Summer Camp goes beyond just serving campers — it provides the opportunity for Zuni teens and youngadults to be summer camp counselors and role models. In preparation for these roles, the mentors engage in a leadership development program consisting of a four-day outdoor retreat to a culturally significant site, a week of professional development training and daily group sessions. ZYEP’s leadership program helps the mentors develop communication, leadership and mentoring skills, set academic and career goals, gain valuable work experience, all while giving back to their community. Some of our mentors participated in Summer Camp themselves, returning to give back to the next generation of Zuni youth!