Around 100 underserved teens recently took a bus from Sacramento, California, to Grizzly Creek Ranch, 150 miles away in Portola, to attend the first ever Brave Camp, created by the global nonprofit Today, I’m Brave. Here they spent a week in nature with inspirational coaches, speakers and creatives to help encourage the confidence and mental skills that will give them the best chance in life. More than 100 ad agencies, production houses and creative companies spent $1,500 each to sponsor a teen, so they could attend at no cost to their family. The result was a week that was hugely impactful on all the participants, and here David Angelo, the man behind Today, I’m Brave and the founder of David & Goliath ad agency, and health coach Michael Carter, who taught the campers about meditation and mindfulness, describe their experience helping the youths to unlock their potential.
David Angelo, Founder of Today, I’m Brave
Today, I’m Brave is a global nonprofit, whose main mission is to help unlock bravery in today’s youth so they can take on the challenges of tomorrow. And we do so through the use of three filters that we focus on. One is diversity, equity and inclusion, the second is health and wellness, and the third is education. And for health and wellness, we launched Brave Camp.
For the inaugural camp, we invited 100 BIPOC teens who come from underserved communities to experience a camp that was specifically designed to unlock their bravery. There were six different days, six stages, and each had a specific theme. One day was about community, and was all about teaching them through various activities how important community is in their lives, and the importance of never forgetting where you’re from. Another day was about adaptability, which is all about creating opportunities from challenges. One of the main challenges we had was that the Dixie Fire was just 30 or 40 miles away, and we had issues where the smoke from the fire made it very difficult to breathe, so we had to adapt and reshape our curriculum accordingly. One day was unity, which was all about instilling the sense that together we are stronger. And another day focussed on confidence, and unlocking that inner-confidence to give them permission to believe that they could be and do anything.
There were all kinds of activities: Michael Carter is a yogi who brought amazing meditation practice to the table. We had the Gracie brothers, from the family that brought Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to the United States and helped form UFC. There was Sheila Dorsey, this amazing artist who uses art as a form of mental therapy to treat depression and anxiety. And Paul Bamba, who is a former Marine and celebrity trainer, brought his own experience of overcoming hardship, as well as his experience as a foster child. And Jason Harris, the CEO of advertising agency Mekanism, brought a pretty awesome practice to the table, which was helping these kids identify their superpower, write it on a rock, and then have the courage to stand up on a stage and talk about their superpower to the camp. And then at the end, we took all of the rocks and put them on top of the highest mountain in that area, to serve as a beginning of many more camps and opportunities to get others to embrace their superpower and put their rocks on the mountain as well.
We worked with two other organizations. We teamed up with Improve Your Tomorrow, who are the mentors for the kids who were chosen from the Sacramento urban area to attend the camp. And then there was the camp itself, which is the Sierra Nevada Journeys, and they’re a nonprofit campsite that really focuses on nature and social learning. Overall, nature just has an amazing effect on people. It really grounds you and gives you a greater appreciation for life, and that there is something so much bigger than our phones or social media,. It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to sit down with two other amazing nonprofit organizations and come up with a way to create a camp experience for kids who come from an environment or community that may not be able to afford such an experience, and to give them that opportunity. And hopefully helping them unlock those tools that will help them deal with social issues like bullying, depression, anxiety and other things they may face in their daily lives. And one of the great things was we reached out to the advertising industry, and asked individual agencies to sponsor a teen. And so many replied with, ‘Count me in!’ Rarely do you see that type of unity within our industry because for the most part, it’s very competitive. And for us all to come together just shows me what’s possible.
I’ve always believed that we are seeds. And if we plant that seed, then hopefully something is going to trigger something in that kid, and in the future he or she is going to remember that somebody inspired them to believe in themselves a little more.
Michael Carter, Health and Wellness Coach
I work with kids with behavioral issues and try to work through it with fitness and mindfulness. As a young kid, I grew up in inner-city Washington DC, my father was incarcerated most of my life, so I really didn’t know him, and my mom died when I was nine, and I moved in with my grandparents. So my background might be similar to some of these kids.
Once you’re in a situation where the family structure is not solid, you need to put your energy into something else to build strength within yourself. And fitness was my route and has served me so well.
I wanted to bring these kids mindfulness, and to help them learn how they are creating reality through their thought patterns. Because everything that we see around us started off as a thought, and then it was held long enough until it was manifested into the physical. So I got them to sit with their thoughts, breathe, and come to a visualization of how they want their lives to turn out. And we talked about my physical fitness, and I told them fitness is one of those things that always pays dividends.
They asked a lot of questions and were really curious, and that’s so important. Curiosity is a seed that was planted that, if it continues to get watered, it can blossom into anything. So I felt a lot of seeds were planted in the minds of those children, so when mindfulness, health and wellness comes back across their plate they are more familiar with it, more interested, and they go further along that path. I also told them that, in life, you have to be ruthless with going with your intuition and your gut, which is your higher self. You’re going to have decisions in life where you have to choose between your ideas and the ideas of others, and you should always go with what comes from within.
For me, it revitalized my passion with working with the youth from a young age, because if you catch them while they still have that excitement and innocence, and are not conforming into certain roles, you can affect the future because those minds are still so free and creative. They’re not judging themselves so much and don’t have such a big inner dialogue. And if you can get that confidence to bloom at that age, we change the world.