Camp Odyssey is an innovative diversity training and leadership development program for Oregon youth between 14 and 18 years of age. Its aim is to help foster appreciation, understanding, and respect for cultural differences while building leadership skills. We empower young people to gain the life skills needed to become social investors, transforming not only themselves, but also their collective communities. The program starts with an intense week-long summer camp held near Salem, OR each year. 45-60 campers, selected from as varied socioeconomic backgrounds as possible, participate in trust-building and experiential activities, and structured intercultural dialogue.
After summer camp, with Regional Coordinators and adult volunteers, the Year-Round Program supports Odyssey youth in bringing what they have learned back to their communities. Regional meetings, service activities and reunions provide youth opportunities to develop specific, actionable skills and strategies to then initiate projects such as clubs, forums and performance groups in their schools and home communities. Odyssey’s continued activities during the school year present a series of opportunities for youth to reinforce and practice leadership skills in their own communities.
Using both quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods looking at the 20+ years of Camp history and results, we have identified the following outcomes:
Increased understanding and awareness of self, as well as people unlike oneself.
Increased comfort around, and empathy with, people unlike oneself.
Increased knowledge, ability and desire to address topics around privilege, oppression and differences.
Increased conflict-resolution, leadership and communication skills.
Increased engagement in school, community and social justice activities.
Social change resulting from involvement in one’s community; the authentic expression of one’s values; and elevated ability to acknowledge varied perspectives.