What is “Sprog”? The simple answer is that it is a summer program run by the Sierra Student Coalition to train youth in leadership, organizing, and activism. But the week we spent in Prince William Forest Park was so much more than this. A condensed look at what we did:
A diverse and passionate group of instructors engaged us with trainings in strategy and campaign planning, working with the media, effective facilitation for meetings and groups, confronting oppression, grassroots outreach and much more. They used flip charts, not PowerPoint, and the whole group shared experiences and ideas.
In small groups we ran simulated campaigns to practice our new skills. This included a whole simulated world with elaborate back stories and many ways to interact. As the Neighborhood Association of Ward 5 we tabled to gain new supporters, waged a full-fledged media campaign, formed a coalition with like-minded groups, phone-banked to get volunteers, and met with decision makers. The sim culminated with a block party that featured a panel discussing a proposed coal plant and the focus of the campaigns. The debate was fierce and the pro-coal team held their ground despite being outnumbered. After the block party the crowd was organized into a march on city hall that ultimately stopped an illegal vote to approve a hydraulic fracturing plant. The simulation gave insight into the challenges of real campaigning, was stimulating, fast-paced, and a ton of fun.
Inspired by an excerpt from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, we shared our own “green fire” and passion behind our activism. Everyone had their own experience and interests. Some worked with their campus’ environmental groups, others with living wage campaigns, with community enrichment, on LGBTQ issues, or on mountain top removal, and others were still looking to find their passion. One Sprogger, Sharon Hartzell, shared her motivation in an interview: “It was never something that I thought about very much, because nature was always there for me. I was privileged to grow up in a place that had a lot of woods and streams and beautiful natural places at my disposal that I never thought twice about being able to access. Even outside of my home town, I was able to go to national parks and see some of the beautiful areas of our country. These experiences worked their way into my subconscious mind and informed how I saw the world as a place of adventure and opportunity. It troubles me that kids in a lot of places don’t grow up seeing any of that, and that in the future there might not be any children that are able to grow up in that way. That is one motivation for why I am interested in the environmental movement.”
We bonded through our stories and over the heat (spending a week outside with no AC can really bring people together). In our free time we swam in the creek or slept. The food was amazing. It consisted of an all-vegetarian menu and each meal was even more delicious than the last.
Getting to practice the many skills involved in organizing in a low stress environment with direct feedback was invaluable. Still, the most important part of Sprog for many was making connections with other Sproggers. Activism can feel lonely; the opposition is often large and well-funded, monetary incentives small, and one’s own recourses minimal. It is easy to be overwhelmed. Finding a community of people as passionate and dedicated as oneself inspires hope. It is empowering to know young people are taking action all over this country, working and fighting for what they believe in. Sprog happens every summer in distinct locations across the country. Get your kids outside, get them inspired, and send them to Sprog!