Earlier this summer I was fortunate enough to go on the BBYO summer experience CLTC. Chapter Leadership Training Conference is a 12-day experience where Jewish teens learn how to become better leaders for their BBYO chapters at home and their communities.
Although you have the option to attend CLTC at Bethany College in Bethany, WV, my CLTC took place at Beber Camp in Mukwonago, WI. As someone who has never attended summer camp before, I was excited to get a camp-like experience at Beber. While there, I not only improved my leadership skills but made friends from all over the United States.
Immediately after getting off the plane in Milwaukee, someone from the CLTC staff was there to greet me and the rest of the teens on my flight. Although I booked my flights alone, many teens from Memphis and Atlanta were on the plane with me.
While at the airport, I met the people who would eventually become some of my best friends. Most of the conversation the first day was about how excited we were for the next 12 days and wondering when we would get to leave the airport.
The first night at Beber we were put into mock chapters. These were groups of 15 that were similar to our BBYO chapter back home. Each chapter had a board with standard BBYO leadership positions, and we were given the opportunity to run for positions on that board.
As a mock chapter, our responsibilities at CLTC included planning programs for the rest of the teens, leading Shabbat services and setting up for meals. The encouraging environment at CLTC was clear from the first day, being a relatively shy person, I was surprised by my willingness to volunteer and share in front of my mock chapter.
Most days at CLTC began with rotations where you visited three areas of camp and learned a new leadership skill like public speaking, giving feedback and understanding body language. These skills are not only helpful in BBYO, but can be applied at school and in the real world.
One of my main takeaways from CLTC was how to present myself as a strong and confident leader. As a student, this is really important to have when doing group projects as I’ll be able to be a leader in my group to get work done more efficiently.
Other leadership lessons were directed more towards BBYO. I just finished a term as my chapter’s morah. One of my main roles in this position was recruiting eighth graders to join BBYO. At CLTC, the recruitment strategy MRIHA was discussed and I learned many new tips for recruiting eighth graders. Although my time as morah is over, my knowledge of MRIHA is something I can pass down to the next morah to improve our chapter.
One result of CLTC I was not expecting was my increased connection to Judaism. Every day at CLTC we had morning services. At the first morning service, I felt out of place as I didn’t know most of the prayers or their meanings. However, each morning we were able to talk and pray, and I was able to learn the meanings of the prayers and specifically what they meant to me. By the second week, I looked forward to morning services, and felt a closer connection to my religion.
By the end of my CLTC experience, I was sad to leave. I felt so much more confident in my leadership abilities and am more motivated to take leadership roles in my community. I talk to my CLTC friends every day and agree with everyone who says it’s the best 12 days of your life.