Before coming to the JCC Camps at Medford in 2014, I spent 6 years at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades as the Director of Teen Services. There, I ran programming for pre-teens and teens in grades 6-12, all focused on service, volunteerism, philanthropy, and leadership. I loved having the opportunity to inspire teenagers to grow as leaders and watching them come into their own.
When, asked what program I was most excited to supervise upon my arrival at the JCC Camps at Medford, my immediate answer was the Gesher CIT program. Barrie Mittica, the director of the program, and I bonded right away over our love of teen leadership programming, and that inspired us to change the name of our summer experience. We believe that in Gesher, we build leaders, so rather than being a Counselor-in-Training program, Gesher is now a Leader-in-Training program. Barrie has added so much to Gesher in her 4 summers at the JCC Camps at Medford, and our participants learn incredible new skills each summer.
When given the opportunity to run a teen leadership program year round, we jumped at the chance. J-LEAD, the teen leadership program at the Katz JCC, was designed to inspire our community’s teenagers to be leaders in the Jewish community. Our second class has just graduated from the program, and we are so excited to watch the close to 70 teenagers who have now been in the program with us accomplish exciting new things in the coming years.
J-LEAD focuses on the tenets of what makes a strong Jewish leader in our community. Participants learn and identify personal Jewish values, how to communicate their story, and about intersections between leadership and philanthropy, service, volunteerism, fundraising, Israel advocacy, abilities awareness, and more. They hear from current community leaders, work on capstone projects, and bond as a group. Many of our graduates will be staff at the JCC Camps at Medford this summer, and we hope that J-LEAD has inspired them to want to grow in their camp leadership skills. We look forward to seeing all they accomplish!