Archive for the ‘Youth Leadership’ Category
First, thank you for reading this blog about my experience with the Coastal Management Project during the COVID-19 pandemic. Things haven’t been a cake walk for CAT staff, however, we found a way to make the best out of this project. I remember having a staff meeting at Popeyes in the winter, to discuss upcoming programming for in person CAT meetings.
Unfortunately the in person meetings we had planned had turned into virtual meetings. On the other hand, having to do everything virtually allowed me to hone my computer literacy skills. Virtual meetings also allowed me to think harder, as well as become more self aware, because I was used to getting things done in person. Doing this project virtually took a lot of communication, patience, and determination. I am proud of CAT staff for coming together (even if virtually) to complete a successful project to share with Chicago Adventure Therapy.
I first learned about the Coastal Management Project in December of last year. Back when we thought 2020 would be a fantastic, fruitful year. I was extremely excited to have the chance to step into a leadership role with Chicago Adventure Therapy, after being a participant for about five years, and to have the opportunity to introduce paddling to more people while also helping to clean the water that we are so lucky to have in Chicago. I was also excited to teach more people about how to be safe in the water so that they should have more access to it. CAT introduced me to kayaking and water safety when I was 16, and it made my life so much better and gave me something to look forward to doing with a community I genuinely cared for. I wanted to help provide that experience for other people.
The pandemic started just as we began to plan our Water Safety Talks. In the midst of juggling the quarantine, my other job, and some personal issues, we had to rethink our approach to the water safety talks completely. As much as I would’ve preferred to be able to provide the presentations in person, I think that we reached more people than we would’ve been able to. We quickly taught ourselves about audio quality and video editing to produce seven short videos in 7 weeks. I am beyond proud of us for finding a way to get quality information to people in an easily digestible form. No, this is not what I expected the first part of this project to entail, but I am proud that we were able to refocus and come together during a pandemic to complete our water safety talks. I look forward to brainstorming more ideas about how we can make the rest of this grant’s facets both informative and engaging while still trying to keep everyone as safe as possible.
We’re excited to announce a new project – “Youth-Led Community Outreach,” funded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Coastal Management Program. For me, this is one of the most exciting projects we’re working on – and I’ve been inspired by the way the leaders of this project have rolled with repeated challenges. Over a year ago, we submitted a grant proposal with a lot of inter-related parts – coach training for CAT youth and young adults; Water Safety Talks aimed at young Chicago audiences in communities that traditionally have limited access to the water-based resources in Chicago, presented by the new coaches; Paddling Extravaganzas open to the public and “walk-in” participation, led by our new coaches, where the general public can get a chance to try out a kayak, a canoe or a SUP board; 4-session on-the-water paddlesport classes led by our young coaches; community celebrations open to anyone who participated in any of these events, where we’ll also provide information and resources about ways and places in Chicago to stay involved in paddlesport and conservation activities.
We were so pleased to receive the grant. Just as we were supposed to start, a pandemic hit the world. The young adult leaders of this project had just started planning the Water Safety Talks, when they had to change gears and figure out how to take them online. So in addition to researching the content, they had to learn video editing platforms pretty quick and complete basically a self-taught crash course in PR 101.
They did all of that.
They’ve published a 5-part series of Water Safety Talks. You can watch them all right here.
As the Water Safety Talks were wrapping up, the team started working on a modified version of the Paddling Extravaganzas. Of course they couldn’t plan to bring together the crowds that would have been part of the initial plan – so instead they offered family paddles. They brainstormed where to share information with hard copy flyers and online, and worked on their Graphic Design skills to work up a flyer. The family paddles allowed for the same “intro to paddling” and “intro to Lake Michigan” that we planned with the Extravaganzas – but without the crowds, and without exposing these new paddlers to people outside their household. We were pleased with this way of getting people on the water and keeping the risk of transmission of coronavirus low. We had to cancel the coach training that was planned for June – we couldn’t bring in our Guest Coaches – so our young adult leaders of this project and some of our CAT staff worked together to make sure they got trained in the basics of leading people on the water.
It was another project that wasn’t what any of us expected. And another project that the team stepped up to admirably.
And then the City’s Re-Opening metric that measures new cases turned yellow in a green-yellow-red traffic-light-type system the City created. This was the benchmark that triggered an automatic pause in CAT programming.
So the team had to pivot again.
They were disappointed.
Really disappointed.But they brushed it off, and created a new plan. We’re creating an opportunity for a bit more informal coach training, and since staff events aren’t on pause, the team is planning to film some instructional paddlesport videos. They started filming yesterday evening.
I expect they’ll have to change up their plans again. And again.
I’m really proud of them – for their flexibility, the enthusiasm and the heart they bring to this project, their ability to keep changing plans instead of throwing up their hands in despair or frustration. They may be young – they have handled the frustration and the challenge admirably. They keep coming up with ways to meet the goals of this project.
I couldn’t be more proud of them.
Keep checking this page for updates about their project. We all need a little inspiration this summer – and I expect you’ll find it in this team.
Thanks so much!
Founder, Chicago Adventure Therapy