Monday, July 25, 2016

A Camp That Changes Lives Forever

What is OTI...

OTI (Ohio Teen Institute) is a drug free leadership conference that is designed for high school students and adults. This conference provides high school age students with effective skills to help them learn how to become positive leaders in their school and community and also allows adults the opportunity to learn skills that will help them develop prevention based programs with today's youth. At the conference, participants are put into small discussion groups (we call these family groups) where they get to shares ideas, play games, and truthfully start to bond like a real family would. They also get to participate in workshops that are designed to help them learn new skills (adults focus primarily on prevention planning), share their talents with each other in the yearly talent show, and also have a dance where they have loads of fun without having to use drugs or alcohol.

My story and how OTI has shaped me...

The first time I had ever heard anything about OTI was during my junior year of high school. One of the leaders from a club I was involved in during high school known as PANDA, had known about the conference and kept encouraging me to go and check it out. At first I was very skeptical of the idea of going to some conference that I didn't know much about, where I would only know a few people, and that was pretty far away from home. I kept pondering the idea over and over again and decided to give the idea a shot. Little did I know before going there how much this camp was going to change my life for good. During my years of middle school and high school, I was super shy, only had a few friends, and struggled severely with depression and thoughts of suicide, and later on in high school an eating disorder. I felt as though I was alone in the world and there wasn't a single soul out there that truly cared about me or would care if I were to disappear. When I walked into OTI my first day of camp I was completely speechless. There was such a positive atmosphere all around me, the people there were the friendliest people I had ever met, and everyone was so accepting. This camp opened my eyes and showed me that there were people out there who truly cared, and that I didn't have to live a sad life full of darkness and pain. When I try to explain to people why OTI makes me happy or try to explain how the camp makes a person feel, I am usually never able to put it into words. The content feeling you get there is mind boggling and amazing that you can only begin to understand it if you are actually there and get to participate in it. In the last three years I can definitely say I am no longer the same person I once was before going to this camp. I am actually confident in myself, I can talk to anyone I come in contact with, I try to live a very positive and happy lifestyle, and I try not to let the negativity that once hurt me get to me anymore.

What OTI means to me...

Over the last three years I have been to three camps and I can definitely say that each camp has always been  more amazing then the one before. My first year I was a participant in the camp, my second year I got to be apart of the youth staff and this year I got to be apart of the intern staff. While being in each role, I have gotten to see the camp through different pairs of eyes. When I was a participant I was a depressed teen looking for close friends and a safe haven and was able to find both, during youth staff I got to be the crazy energetic person who got everyone pumped up and ready to go, and being on intern staff I got to do a lot of work and helped figure out how to get different parts of the camp running. Even though there are so many roles in this camp, I believe that there is one common purpose we all have. Yes the main one is to live a drug and alcohol free life and learn leadership skills, but there is also another. This purpose is to unite with people from different backgrounds, ethnicity's, religions, etc and learn how to make our world a more positive and better place to live. No one in this world should ever have to wake up wishing it were over or wonder if there is even a purpose out there for them. Making the world a better place starts with having the mindset and motivation to make the world better and starts to become better when we start acting on that mindset and motivation and getting others to partake in it with us. OTI is a camp that teaches people how to do this and makes a difference in individuals lives as well as mine, and helps make life so much more brighter and a more positive place to live in.