Finding inspiration through service work at school and abroad, rising Asheville School seniors Nicole Alleyne and Maggie Chang have spearheaded Camp Good Trouble -- a day camp about empowerment, mindset, and building confidence for the youth of Asheville.
These students created a proposal, a mission statement, a motto, a schedule, recruited volunteers, and more while in the middle of their final exams in May.
"I realized that young people who were just like me were living drastically different lives. We had the same type of hair, same skin color, and same eye color, and the only difference between us was the means by which we were given to succeed," Alleyne said. "In that moment, I realized my privilege, and it was a big moment for me. It reminded me of a similar moment that happened while I was serving a nonprofit organization in Kenya through a program called Students Shoulder to Shoulder."
In Kenya, Alleyne worked with the International Peace Initiatives at Amani Children's Home, where she was inspired by its founder, Dr. Karambu. Alleyne credits Karambu with seeing an injustice in her community and doing what she could to make a difference and to help.
"There, I met a girl named Hilda, who was abandoned when she was about 2 or 3-years-old and survived on her own in rural Kenya until a woman named Dr. Karambu took her in, along with several other children with similar stories," Alleyne said.
From Kenya to Asheville, Alleyne recognized similarities in organizations that resonated with her passions. Alleyne said Jen Ramming from OpenDoors of Asheville and Elinor Earle from Youthful H.A.N.D. had realized the youth in their community weren't being supported, financially or socially, and took action. According to their website, OpenDoors of Asheville aims to break the cycle of poverty through education, one child at a time. Asheville School's service afternoon activity works with Youthful H.A.N.D., a tutoring program for children in public school that takes place at Lee Walker Heights' community center. After learning about this program through other Asheville School students, Alleyne wanted to get involved.
"I realized that you couldn't be blessed to have all of those experiences put in your life, be challenged with the same ideas, and still, not do anything," Alleyne said. "I thought, 'I cannot sit here and do nothing.'"
And so, the idea for Camp Good Trouble was born. Alleyne shared her idea with faculty members and friends, and with the help of Asheville School's Director of Community Pluralism Varghese Alexander and camp co-founder Maggie Chang, Camp Good Trouble soon had a volunteer staff of 27 for the expected 31 attendees. Current students, alumni, faculty members, and community members have volunteered to run the inaugural camp at Asheville School July 30 through August 3.
The camp's mission is to empower children of color to ensure that they have the confidence, skills, and motivation to disrupt the monotony of everyday life and to cause "good trouble" to make the world a better place.
"The name Camp Good Trouble was formed after Congressman John Lewis visited Asheville School," Alleyne said. "He left our student body with these impactful words: 'You have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to speak up, speak out, and get in trouble. Necessary trouble. Good trouble.'"
Alleyne adds that the camp's name has a two-fold meaning. "The message says that staff members are taking Congressman Lewis's words to heart and acting on the moral obligation to create action when something is not right in a community. Additionally, the goal is to inspire the campers to realize that they are able to work towards a good education, despite the flaws in the public education system or race relations, and it is a reminder to campers that not only are they able to do all of this and to do it well, but they must. They must get involved. They must become aware. They must stay present. Because one day, it will be up to them to inspire action in their community, too."
The camp's motto is "Moving minds and moving bodies to one day move mountains." In the morning, campers will move their minds by reading and doing math in a fun, relaxed setting that builds confidence and focuses on building a growth mindset. In the afternoon, they will move their bodies in activities such as swim safety, walking the trails and arts programs. The goal of the camp is to prepare these students to move mountains.
Alleyne says it is important to her to that these students, who are all or mostly students of color, have an opportunity to work with mentors who look like them. "Growing up, that was so important to me, to see someone who looks like me that I could look up to. It's important to give these kids exposure to college bound students who look like they do," Alleyne said. "I want our campers to realize their potential inside and outside of the classroom. That's why this camp is all about empowerment, mindset, and building confidence."
The volunteers are excited about the opportunity to be a part of this camp and the potential impact it can make on the community.
"I have concluded that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than seeing the pure joy on a child's face, reflected in their smile, after you have done something to support them, to make them be seen, to make them feel appreciated," Alleyne said. "I am most looking forward to seeing how the community's efforts have impacted the children and to seeing how I can better help them in the future years of the camp."
For updates, follow Camp Good Trouble on Instagram.