Each year, young people from Grand Aspirations programs all around the country gather in August, after Summer of Solutions programs are through for the summer. The host program for the August Gathering changes each year. Last year, the Hartford team hosted at a church in downtown Hartford. This year, our team made the trek to South Charleston, West Virginia where Built it Up! West Virginia hosted the gathering.
For five days, we stayed at the Rock Lake Community Center, sharing stories and lessons from our summers, training each other in important skills, and preparing the work ahead of us.
Below, I will include a photo gallery of the gathering.
The August Gathering was a great experience for me, as a returning Program Leader. I love catching up with everyone from Grand Aspirations, learning from each other, and coming home with a lot of excitement and energy going in to the next year. This year, some highlights were our trip to Kayford Mountain, which I posted about previously, a fancy fundraiser dinner in Charleston, trainings to prepare for Power Shift, and a group visioning session where we developed plans for a Creative Livelihoods working group!
This August, we also brought three new folks. Sherese went to the January Gathering in Chicago this winter, so she was familiar with the community we’d see there. Sonsharae and Liz joined SoS Hartford as participants this summer, so it was their first time meeting the extended Grand Aspirations network. Here are their thoughts on the week!
“Grand Aspirations has put together another joyful event, bringing together their teams from all over fighting for the same cause. This gathering has given me a lot of insight and knowledge of my brother and sister programs, and gave me a lot of useful information I can bring back to Hartford Summer of Solutions. Other programs ideas and concepts will definitely be useful in the formation of another expected successful program for the Hartford team. I truly enjoyed the segment on designing curriculum this workshop consisted of great ideas that will be very useful. The hike at Kayford Mountain had so much information on such a good cause to stop mountaintop removal. So many people are affected by the mining and these companies really don’t care. It was definitely an eye opener to a powerful movement in trying to decease this removal of much needed and wanted mountains” – Sherese
“The August gathering with Grand Aspirations was a very inspiring trip. As a teenager from Hartford, CT who came to West Virginia for the first time I have felt a huge connection with people all over with similar and different beliefs. It was definitely something life changing for me. I came into the trip with a good amount of knowledge both about food endangerment and environmental endangerment but I still feel as if I am leaving with so much more knowledge and so much more passion. I also feel very comfortable about myself in a little way my self-esteem has risen. Mostly because now I have met people who have as much passion about our world like I do, also I have met great individuals who I have only knew me for a week and have accepted who I am. And that is awesome and kind of overwhelming. It is a lovely experience and I would do it all over again. And I am so thankful to be part of Summer of Solutions” – Sonsharae