Teen Leadership Institute

In the summer of 2017, Tawonga re-launched the Teen Leadership Institute (TLI), a program for teens to explore and develop their leadership and outdoor skills within Camp’s community-building framework. In its first year, TLI was a huge success in empowering teens to work together, think critically and become outdoor leaders and responsible members of their local and global communities.


11 teens signed up for the Institute and spent the first four days of their experience backpacking along the rim of Yosemite Valley, where they learned the skills necessary to safely spend time in the backcountry. They were in charge of setting up and taking down campsites, filtering water, preparing food, guiding each other on the trail and leading activities during down time.


After returning for Shabbat at Camp, they started a four day trail work project with a local organization, the Tuolumne River Trust. They cleared out overgrown trails, maintained a campsite and helped monitor an ongoing reforestation project right along the Camp Tawonga driveway.


After another restful Shabbat, TLI was ready to put their skills and community building to work and give back to Camp Tawonga. They gathered in the Garden gazebo to begin learning with Teva, our nature education department.


TLI went through an orientation to the farm and garden and discussed the 10-year plan to expand the food-to-fork education opportunities for campers. They also began their service project – expanding the garden boundary by 20% and building a new gate. Before beginning manual labor, they discussed the importance of listening to our own body’s needs and the fulfillment tangible projects can bring us.


The teens pulled and pounded t-posts, dug holes, measured stake distances, pulled fencing and used power drills to build the gate. They had a positive, collaborative, and determined spirit and worked well under the guidance of Teva staff and Rick from our Buildings and Grounds crew.  The teens later took the lead in making shakshuka and pita with herbs from the garden before finishing off the expansion project.


Later, the teens gathered in the garden again. They learned about the food system both broadly and here at Camp, focusing on topics including the environmental and social impacts of the U.S. food system, Judaism and labor ethics and the Camp Tawonga Kitchen.  They then broke into groups to create and present their own projects on the following topics: Camp Tawonga Food Sustainability, Kibbutz Tawonga, and Farm & Garden Education. The teens thoughtfully described areas for growth, challenges and creative solutions.


Thank you to our TLI teens for your contributions to Tawonga’s land and community!


See below photos of the Teen Leadership Institute, which coincided with Session III, as well as photos from today. Enjoy!