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Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement currently hosts a Teen Social Justice Camp to teach Athens youth about their rights and activism. It runs on weekends, starting June 12-14 and continuing July 24-26 and August 21-22. Any youth ages 10-15 are invited to join. (Photo/Kayla Renie, kayla.renie96@gmail.com)

In the midst of Black Lives Matter protests across the country and a movement for racial justice, the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement is hosting a Teen Social Justice Camp to teach Athens youth about their rights and activism.

The camp involves monthly meetings, travel and performing arts for justice, according to the AADM website. It runs on weekends, starting June 12-14 and continuing July 24-26 and August 21-22. Any youth ages 10-15 are invited to join.

AADM launched its Teen Social Justice Club in 2017 to “cultivate future leaders, build self-confidence and teach students how to respectfully use their voice to advocate for their rights,” according to AADM’s website. The club meets after school during the school year and during the summer for AADM’s summer camp.

The leaders of Teen Social Justice Camp focus on teaching students specifically in the minority community about their rights and any other skills they may need help with, such as reading and writing, said Vice President of AADM Mykeisha Ross.

On the weekend of June 12-14, participants experienced a campfire in Fort Yargo, discussed how they felt about the Black Lives Matter movement and received feedback and resources on how to handle their emotions. They continued to follow social distancing protocols during the time spent together, Ross said.

“A lot of them are still afraid,” Ross said. “But something that motivates them and helps them proceed in life is their goals—we have athletes, artists and even entrepreneurs already.”

The camp includes different mentors to assist in turning the student’s hobbies into forms of action. Athens-Clarke County District 10 commission candidate and co-founder of AADM, Knowa Johnson, is one of the mentors who helps the students learn graphic design, such as designing t-shirts used for social justice.

“[The student’s] perspectives must be taken seriously,” Johnson said in a Facebook post. “Especially when we contemplate solutions to improve our community.”

AADM teaches these students their rights, especially when it comes to being approached or stopped by the police. They teach attendees how to respond, why it’s important to read contacts carefully and have a parent or lawyer present when responding to police, Ross said.

“We really just try to teach them the do’s and don'ts and see what services we can provide for them,” Ross said. “For the most part, we focus on their feedback during the camp and raise their voices, such as letting them participate in a podcast and do artwork.”

AADM is currently fundraising for a new facility for the Teen Social Justice Camp to ensure the students can regularly meet up at a set location, Ross said. The cost of the monthly program of Teen Social Justice Club is $45 with scholarships available, according to their website.

Teen Social Justice provides guidance for students navigating middle and high school as well, such as taking the students on college tours and giving advice for admissions, Ross said.