My journey with Community Tampa Bay started when I was 17 years old, sitting at my high school lunch table. My good friend, Ashira, told me that she couldn’t be friends with someone unless they had attended a summer camp called Anytown. She wouldn’t give me any details about it other than it was in the summer and that she had an application for me to sign up. I had no idea at the time, but that summer program would prove to be one of the most transformative events in my youth.
Attending the summer program at Eckerd College was my first time setting foot on a college campus, it was my first time having roommates, and it was the first time I had real, difficult, and necessary conversations about life with my peers. The 5-day overnight summer program brought together from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, all from incredibly diverse backgrounds to learn about one another and how to make positive change in their community. My whole worldview expanded so quickly in just those 5 days. After the camp, I continued to volunteer with Community Tampa Bay and with them I was able to go on many more trips to college campuses, speak to elected representatives about issues that youth face, and help organize an all-youth-coordinated food raising event. In my first year of university at USF I was able to help Community Tampa Bay as a youth board member, providing me a behind the scenes look at all the programs that I came to love.
Over the 12-years since attending Anytown, I kept in touch with past members and read about events posted online. I still felt that I carried with me a part of that Anytown ‘spirit’ in everything I did. From advocating for children in child welfare, to speaking with professions and diverse members of the community in my work, to traveling and working abroad in a different country and learning a new language, it was that 5-day youth program in the summer of 2010 that prepared me for it all.
Having the opportunity to come back for the summer and be a facilitator in 2022 brought back so many memories of my time there. Most importantly, however, it gave me a chance to see the present moment with the youth attending the summer program today. I heard their stories and witnessed the brilliance of the youth in attendance and learned from them just as I did back in 2010. During the two sessions where I served as a volunteer, my love for the work that Community Tampa Bay does and the good they serve in our community was strengthened. I’m proud to be in the position I am now as Communications & Development Coordinator, so that I can continue to help spread Community Tampa Bay’s mission and help others see the good we do for our community.