I’ve always been the odd one out; in my family, my friend group, everywhere I go. I’m known as the girl who gets the same amount of excitement having a conference call as she does when a new episode of ABC Family’s The Fosters comes on, the girl who can’t hang out because she has a meeting for her organization, The Validation Project, the girl who gets giddy over a new graphic design or possible partnership.
For the past two years, since I started The Validation Project, a global movement uniting teenagers to turn their passions into action, I’ve been forced to live two parallel lives.
During the day, I’m a sixteen-year-old girl who loves to dance to Macklemore and go to my Jewish youth group, USY. I walk my dogs and go to school. But after 4PM, when my Spanish homework is finally done and my friends go off to dance practices and soccer games, my work day begins. I work with more than 5,500 teenagers across the globe, partnering them with community service opportunities and mentors according to their talents. I chat with Seventeen Magazine about girl power or design new campaigns for DoSomething.org. I work with The Validation Project’s new cottage industry in Uganda, raising thousands of dollars from handmade bracelets to start the first HIV/AIDS clinic in a rural Ugandan community.
Although I’m fortunate enough to have a great support system with my family and friends, there’s never been a place for me to mesh my two lives together – allowing me to be an entrepreneur, but also be a kid. I’ve been forced to separate these two parts of me, until I found Camp Inc.
When I discovered there was a Jewish overnight camp for teenage entrepreneurs, I needed more than Macklemore to show my excitement. I couldn’t believe it.
That was four months ago. Now here I am, four days into Camp Inc., and already a whole new person. I’m surrounded by mini Mark Zuckerbergs and whether the conversation is about a high-tech invention that could change the medical world or about the glowing night sky that hugs our Colorado campus, I am, for the first time, my whole self. Our days are half brainstorming solutions to our generation’s grocery list of social issues and meeting with innovative companies, half playing basketball and making mashups of the oldest Jewish prayers with the newest list of Top 100. Camp Inc. is more than the camp for the teenage entrepreneur – it’s a place for my generation to peel back the layers we’ve worked so hard to build up and become a family. It may only be four days in, but damn, we are getting there.