2017 Power of Hope Camp Report

For a week in July, Commonweal was transformed by 42 Bay Area youth who filled the land with creativity, energy, and depth. They came from Richmond, Sonoma, Oakland, and West Marin. They came from different narratives and geographies, and from different economic and familial backgrounds. During these times, when challenges and hatred are emerging across the country from Charlottesville to Berkeley, it is inspiring to have experienced the power of hope that permeates defenses that have been hardened by tensions and fear.

Power of Hope collaborates with a network of partners from around the Bay Area including Destiny Arts in Oakland, The East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, On the Move in Napa, and others. The camp was led by Samara Atkins, an amazing street dance/movement teacher and facilitator from Oakland, together with experienced actor and Creative Community facilitator Thomas Arndt. This was their third year co-leading the Power of Hope camp at Commonweal, along with 24 staff members from all over the world. Our staff—all artists or nature educators—covered a range of ages and represented many of the same communities as our youth. Having expertise in a multitude of art mediums, they guided the youth through a wide array of creative endeavors.

Now in our third year, we had a few campers who graduated. One 18 year-old African American teenager from Oakland has chosen to work on an organic farm for a year before starting college. He was clear that Power of Hope changed his life and set him on his new path. Another young man from Bolinas shared how Power of Hope broadened his network of friends to include people and places he never knew existed. He will be coming back as an intern at Commonweal in 2018.

And in their own words from our end of camp youth survey:

“I am not afraid to talk about my feelings and I will not judge people based on first sight.”

“The way I walk in the world changes each time I come here. I always come away with fresh eyes. The most important thing I learned is to value each other’s differences and to appreciate each other as much as we can while on this earth.”

“I will be more expressive of my love for the people in my life at home.”

“I’ll get into more environmental activism and fight people with love (or heart).”

“I’ll speak out on things that are wrong.”

“I learned how to use writing as a way to express myself.”

“I’ll be more open-minded and have more experiences with people from different backgrounds.”

“I will be creating my own community and I will also have the tools to get rid of my eating disorder.”

Who Was at Camp?


  • Five 14 year olds
  • Four 15 year olds
  • Seventeen 16 year olds
  • Fourteen 17 year olds
  • Two 18 year olds

  • 23 female identified
  • 17 male identified
  • 2 other identified

  • 2 Asian American
  • 2 Pacific Islander
  • 11 African American
  • 10 Latino
  • 12 White
  • 1 Native American
  • 4 Other/Mixed

  • 23 Significant scholarship (more than $200)
  • 8 Partial scholarship (up to $200)
  • 3 Paid by partner organization
  • 8 Paid full tuition

  • 3 San Francisco
  • 15 Alameda
  • 13 Sonoma
  • 2 Napa
  • 5 West Marin
  • 2 Marin
  • 2 Other
 There were five young people who
identified as LGBT and two young
people with special needs.

Artists and Mentors


  • 13 were 20-30
  • 7 were 30-40
  • 2 were above 40

  • 13 female identified
  • 7 male identified
  • 2 other identified

  • 4 Latino
  • 8 African American
  • 8 White
  • 2 Other/Mixed Heritage
Country of Origin

  • 17 from the USA
  • 2 from Africa (Uganda and Rwanda)
  • 2 from Canada (Vancouver and Montreal)
  • 1 from Venezuela
Art Medium
(some staff had more then one art medium)

  • 7 Dance
  • 2 Music
  • 2 Film/Video
  • 2 Naturalist
  • 3 Theatre
  • 6 Written Word

Emphasis on Film

The film industry was well represented at this year’s camp. We had a professional film crew led by Brad Coley and Cassidy Friedman. Their short film documenting the camp from the perspective of our youth will be screened in a few months. Also, two of our staff members, Ruby from Vancouver and Benjamin from Venezuela, led a series of workshops on how to make a music video. The result was amazing, ending with a great shot of the entire youth and staff community on the beach. The young people directed, staged, and filmed the entire video below in five days.

Lessons Learned

Each year lessons are learned for ways to improve the camp experience. For instance, a better design for the showers is needed for the youth—as we have been using temporary outdoor showers which prove to be a little chilly for the Bolinas summer. Another lesson for next year is to explore how to deepen our relationships with our organizational partners through out the Bay Area so we can provide supportive channels for the young people to continue their community and personal creative work. Our staff is also committed to find ways to keep the youth engaged throughout the year so that the transformation experiences while at Commonweal will stick and strengthen.

Power of Hope is an amazing transformational experience for the young people that come to camp as well as for the Millennial and adult mentors. It builds a community of creativity and support that effects their lives not only for their week at Commonweal, but also at home. The support of our funders, organizational partners, and other community groups are what enable us to do this work and reach its highest potential. Next year, camp will be from July 11-18. All of our community supporters are invited to experience the Power of Hope showcase which will be held in the evening at the Commonweal Gallery on Monday, July 16, 2018. We have many other stories and images to share, so please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you want to explore or learn more about Power of Hope.