Miranda Snyder: Education major makes a difference through leadership at youth activism camp, literacy program

Miranda Snyder of Brimfield, Massachusetts spent part of her summer immersed in activism and volunteering with youth.

The third-year secondary education major, who has a concentration in English and is in the Honors College, worked as a camp counselor at Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA Camp), which focuses on youth activism, and volunteered with African Community Education (ACE) to help refugee and immigrant youth improve their English literacy and other professional skills.

“I believe that education is at the root of all progress, both internal and external. In order to have meaningful conversations, one must be acquainted with the subject matter of the discussion, but also be open to learning from others,” she says. “I believe that sharing personal stories is one of the most, if not the most, effective tools of education. With proper, meaningful literacy skills, one can advocate for themselves in the most effective way possible, henceforth educating others with their unique, personal experience.”

YEA Camp, located in Charlton, Massachusetts, trains young middle and high school-age students who are interested in activism with skills to help them advocate for their “issue of importance,” or IOI.

As a counselor, Snyder led workshops for campers focused on gender, bullying, writing a personal manifesto, leading a club and theatre activism. Other staff taught workshops ranging from institutional racism to consumerism to arts activism to nonviolent communication skills, as well as evening activities designed to strengthen confidence and communication skills, according to Snyder.

She says the entire camp experience was “life-changing and extremely affirming” of her future plans, especially what she learned from the meaningful relationships she formed with campers.

“Twelve-year-old campers spoke at length about intersectional issues, and brainstormed methods to solve them. Every camper, whether or not they had the highest level of confidence or most finessed communication skills upon entering camp, had a passion for their cause and refused to deny its importance,” Snyder says. “Being able to help cultivate an environment of support, teaching and fulfillment for these young individuals reminded me that no one’s voice is weaker or less important because of their age. Instead, we ought to devote our efforts to supporting these passionate voices, because they will be the ones that decide tomorrow.”

Through ACE, located in Worcester, Massachusetts, Snyder worked with middle and high school-age students who are African refugees and immigrants in the organization’s 15-day summer reading program. ACE provides students with summer reading texts for free, and Snyder led a daily two-hour session discussing vocabulary and contents of the text, having students take turns reading out loud and helping them with difficult-to-pronounce words.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at ACE. The structure of all summer programs allows the students time to relax and mingle, but also emphasizes the benefit of working on educational skills,” Snyder says. “Similar to my experience at YEA Camp, the students’ dedication to learning inspired me greatly. Each student was committed to reading and engaging in discussions around the texts, despite being at an unjust setback compared to their U.S.-born peers.”

Snyder focuses on activism outside of academics too. She is a co-chair of the Feminist Collective, and works with the group to spread awareness about various issues on campus and beyond. As a Fogler Library Student Ambassador, she provides feedback on student reception and interaction with the library, and she also enjoys reading and performing, including theatre, dance and music.

“The activist community on campus continually encourages me to challenge my preconceptions, opinions, and how my efforts are carried out,” says Snyder. “Not only is the community ever-enriching, it is also ever-strong. When new headlines or our daily experiences are triggering, we provide one another with care and support, and rally to use our passion for progress.”

Contact: Cleo Barker, 207.581.3729