A New Leader: Amani Davidson Found Her Voice with The Fresh Air Fund
Twenty-year-old Amani Davidson is studying to become an adolescent psychologist – a person who talks professionally to kids, even though, 10 years ago, Amani herself was not a talkative kid.
“I was really, really shy, and I didn’t like speaking to people,” Amani said.
Signing up for summer camp was her mom’s idea.
Amani’s family lives in Brooklyn, and when her mom discovered The Fresh Air Fund and its camp opportunities – which had no cost compared to the fees that many other programs she researched had, and were focused on youth living in New York City – she signed 11-year-old Amani up.
Amani arrived at Camp Anita Bliss Coler, known as Camp ABC, and found more than the activities she was expecting.
She found a voice. She found her voice.
“The Fresh Air Fund encouraged me to speak up and say what I was thinking, even if my opinion was different than everyone else’s in the room,” Amani said. “You might spark something in someone else. The camp leaders really encourage you to have your own voice and be your own individual. There’s no such thing as an outcast at The Fresh Air Fund or Camp ABC. Everybody is accepted into this family no matter who you are, what you believe or what you do.”
Amani met new friends and counselors from around the world. She had a safe space in which she could speak her mind and feel comfortable, all while gaining leadership and team-building skills.
Amani returned summer after summer to Camp ABC, eventually participating in the camp’s Teen Leadership Program, which provides young women ages 13 to 17 a nurturing environment in which they can focus on personal growth, leadership and community service. Campers are challenged to express themselves. By discovering and developing their potential, the girls become more independent and self-confident.
“There are a few key things that I learned growing up from The Fresh Air Fund that really stuck with me,” Amani said. “I had a counselor that would say, ‘No one has the power over you to make you feel a specific way. You have the power to react how you want to react.’ I’ve learned that over the years: Don’t allow other people to have power over you and how you feel.”
At age 15, Amani joined the Young Women’s Giving Circle (YWGC), an extension of Camp ABC’s Teen Leadership Program. During the academic year, a group of teen leaders participate in the youth-led program which teaches girls about the importance of community service and the power of philanthropy. With the guidance of advisors, students meet weekly to continue their learning, research social issues, plan community service projects and strategize for fundraising.
The YWGC collectively chooses to focus, for nine months, on a problem to solve within their community. They then work as a team to raise awareness about the issue they chose and coordinate fundraisers to give back to a selected nonprofit that is associated with their cause.
Amani was so inspired by the experience, she gave back to the YWGC. Once a student in the program, she’s now an advisor.
“The topics that we cover hit close to home and the girls are very passionate about them,” Amani said. “So the fact that YWGC gives them a space to raise awareness and to talk about these topics – it’s amazing.”
“Over the years I’ve gone from camper to counselor-in-training to junior counselor to Teen Program Specialist and now I’m a Village Leader, which is like a head counselor,” Amani said. “And I really love what I do.”
This year, Amani led a YWGC group that chose to take a closer look at mental health in their community, with a focus on sexual assault and self-care. The young women worked throughout the school year to create posters with information on how to speak to sexual assault victims, their families and their friends. They hung the posters around Camp ABC and provided them to the counselors. They also created a self-care workshop for Camp ABC campers.
Amani describes the YWGC as an extension of the community created at The Fresh Air Fund’s camps. Participants have an opportunity to present unique perspectives and impact their futures, often in ways that might not have been possible without the program’s support.
“I think it’s very important for the girls to have a space where they are taught they can do anything no matter what…They can achieve anything with hard work and dedication,” Amani said. “They can be anything they want to be.”
Amani wants to keep sharing that message, through her studies and through her continued involvement with The Fresh Air Fund, Camp ABC and the YWGC.
Amani said, “I want to be that person that gives kids a space to find and express their voice, whether it be outside of camp or through The Fresh Air Fund.”
Because she got that space. Because The Fresh Air Fund and that pivotal first summer of camp – and every summer after – changed the direction of one shy Brooklyn girl’s life.
“The Fresh Air Fund is an amazing program,” Amani shared. “It’s a transformative experience for kids. It’s not just typical camp activities. We do workshops, and we talk about how we as individuals affect people around us. We talk about creating relationships. We talk about bullying. We talk about the social climate. We talk about issues that kids are worried about every day…And I think every kid should have a chance to join a camp or any community that welcomes them so openly. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I didn’t go to The Fresh Air Fund camp.”
Learn more about leadership programs, including the Young Women’s Giving Circle, and sleepaway camps, such as Camp Anita Bliss Coler, that The Fresh Air Fund offers to children from New York City’s underserved communities.
Want to help even more children find their voice through The Fresh Air Fund’s programs? Make a donation today.