Pamela Schuller is a disabilities advocate and comedian. She works with Project Here.Now in New York City.
Kutz is my home. I have spent just shy of 10 summers here teaching (and learning) alongside these incredible teens and staff. Two years ago, in partnership with The Jewish Board, UJA-Federation of New York, and a great group of teens I launched a Jewish teen mental health initiative. Our goal is to support mental health, wellbeing, and resilience through learning, connections, and creativity. The program is called Here.Now. and this summer I returned to Kutz as a faculty member to lead programing and work with teens around these sometimes hard to talk about themes.
While not everybody has mental illness, everybody has mental health, and the teens at Kutz understand how important it is to talk and think about themes like resilience and failure and loving who you are. So, for the past week we have worked on four incredible projects together.
The first project was a photo project where we asked teens “if you had a microphone that reached every teen, what would you say?” The teens took photos with their powerful messages like “you matter” and “even if you feel alone, you are not.” I also worked with a group of teens to create two videos on lending a helping hand and asking for help when you need it, and how you can be two things at once (ex: bad at math and incredible at english or be somebody who both has some anxiety and is a performer).
Finally, on Thursday night we had an all camp program on owning and loving who you are, #OwnIt. We talked about how you can hold struggle and challenges at the same time as loving and having compassion for yourself. The teens were each gifted with a homemade Tallit with the words Kutz #OwnIt 2018 on it and we ended the program at the pool, sitting together, as one community and hearing beautiful remarks from Melissa Frey about how each person at the pool adds something so incredibly needed to this world and community. It was a powerful program and the smiles on the teens faces and seeing them embrace each other will stay with me for a long time to come.
We think these projects are incredibly powerful and can’t wait to share them with you and with other teens and Jewish communities!
Kutz is a magical place where teens come ready to learn, partner with adults, push themselves, and grapple with hard questions and themes. That’s the reason that I count down the days every year to join my Kutz family. It’s good to be home.
Feel free to follow Here.Now. through out website www.ProjectHereNow.org and through social media at @projectHereNow on Facebook and Twitter and Project.Here.Now on Instagram.