At the end of February, 60 teens from 8 high schools across Chicagoland came together to participate in Operation Snowball, our annual winter teen retreat planned entirely by teens.
In the spirit of this year's theme Unity Within Diversity and its premise that we must understand and appreciate each other's differences prior to becoming true allies, participants stretched their boundaries, let down their guard and made some lasting friendships through various teambuilding, educational, and empowerment activities.
It was incredible to watch the 11 teen leaders use skills they spent months developing in their leadership program to create unique bonding experiences for their small-group participants, as well as plan workshops around issues such as gun violence and healthy relationships. Workshops also went beyond social issues: slam poetry gave youth the space to share their lives in a safe space, while photography helped participants find beauty in the everyday.
Our final large group activity engaged all participants in designing the city of their dreams, where all residents thrive and express their unique selves. The results were amazing! The participants all invested into the weekend with their hearts and minds, which led to an experience none of us will soon forget.
Generous support for Operation Snowball is provided by the Highland Park Community Foundation, the Barbara and Frank Lieber Family Charitable Trust, and the Trillium Foundation.