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An Unforgettable New Member Convention

Read this story in Jewish Community Voice

The great thing about BBYO is that it creates opportunities for young teens to develop leadership and life skills before many others get that chance. At South Jersey Region BBYO’s IT March 20-12, 2015 at the Jewish Federation Annex — our overnight event for new members — 8th, 9th and newer 10th grade teens developed a set of leadership skills they will hold for the rest of their life.

As the convention began, teens were split up into groups for some icebreakers. They ordered themselves in a row by various different topics — anything from eye color to their mother’s maiden name. As the icebreakers continued, the young teens did not know their groups would actually be spending more time together throughout the weekend. It was revealed that each icebreaker group was a mock BBYO chapter!

Each chapter was led by an older BBYO member who would serve as a guide and mentor to their members as the convention progressed. In their mock chapters, teens had to determine what their chapter name, number, and mascot would be. During this small session alone, each teen gained a handful of new leadership skills including effective communication, creative thinking and decision making.

After a meaningful Shabbat service, the younger members traveled around the Annex to learn about the various BBYO Summer Programs offered and their many benefits, one of which includes Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC). CLTC is often referred to as “the best 12 days of your life” and it’s easy to see why. Participants of CLTC get to develop even more chapter skills while creating long-lasting friendships with Jewish teens across the country.

After this program, teens were instructed to get ready for bed. Leaders kept strict bedtime rules and ensured that every participant was tucked in quickly. However, the teens were then given another surprise when they were awoken at 11:45 p.m. for a separates program. The Alephs (guys) and BBGs (girls) split off into distinct entities to discuss serious, meaningful topics regarding anything from school to Jewry with one another. The separates program was very successful; many Alephs and BBGs regarded this time as the highlight of the convention.

At 1 a.m., the teens were really sent off to get some sleep and then woke up to a bagel and cream cheese breakfast preceding a program centered around the ideal Jewish leader. In their respective mock chapters, members picked a total of 15 statements that they agreed were qualities of the perfect Jewish leader. These statements were presented and the overall consensus was that the teens of South Jersey Region favored one movement heavily: social action. After discussion, it was concluded that social action binds all characteristics of Jewish leadership together into one. The members then broke off as Alephs and BBGs to delve into recreational activity. The guys played “Ultimate Footsketball,” a combination of ultimate Frisbee, football, and basketball, and classic dodgeball. The girls delved into Zumba, capture the flag and soccer.

The next program was titled “BBYO Trivia.” The chapters worked together in order to solve a myriad of questions regarding basic SJR, AZA, and BBG trivia in the format of classic game show “Jeopardy.” After lunch, the chapters were assigned two prompts and were given the task to program a 10-minute program for the convention body to participate in. This was the culmination of all of the leadership skills the teens had learned throughout the weekend. After some free time, each chapter delivered their program to the convention body. The themes ranged anywhere from recreational to the incorporation of globalization throughout BBYO.

To end the convention, parents were invited to watch their teens graduate from IT. Each chapter presented its chapter name, number and mascot, and then representatives from each chapter were called up to answer a specific question regarding what can be taken out of IT. After each graduation certificate was handed out, parents and teens alike delved into an Oneg Havdalah with food and drink to conclude the convention.

South Jersey Region’s new member convention, IT, received critical acclaim from the members of the convention as they not only learned the ins and outs of BBYO history, but they made strong, lifelong connections and leadership skills that they will retain forever.

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