By Sarah Pride
Patrick Henry College
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, addresses the iGovern camp
“I’m basically a country girl,” she explains. “Touring D.C., I can feel a sense of purpose. We see all the negative side of politics on the news. Here [in iGovern camp], we can see some of what’s going right.”
iGovern camp endeavours to bring that same perspective to its high school attendees by creating a “full-immersion politics” scenario, explains Will Estrada, Director of GenJ. Moreover, he says, it teaches leadership in general. Campers come in with assigned identities as members of Congress, encounter an imaginary crisis—this year, a bombing in Turkey—and must determine how to handle it while simultaneously running a campaign to elect a camp President.
“At camp, the kids who grow are the ones who put in huge amounts of effort, the ones who want to serve,” says Joel Grewe, Deputy Director. “The kids find that it’s usually the humble servant leader who wins the election.”
The winner of this summer’s iGovern camp election, Josh Leftwich, attended two previous GenJ camps before this year’s successful campaign. Estrada and Grewe also asked him to lead the worship concert on the last day of camp, a time to leave striving and learning aside and lift praise to God. In an email after camp, Leftwich thanked Grewe for the opportunity.
“I cannot stress to you enough how much of a blessing it was to me [to lead worship],” he wrote, “as it taught me God will always be in control, even when things are chaotic, even when things aren’t coming together, that God will provide according to His plan, not mine.”
Camper Josh Leftwich speaks to his classmates
“If even a few of these students grow in their faith and go home to make a difference,” enthuses Estrada, “iGovern camp is a success.”
The chance to work with other young people on a similar cause also fuels growth in teamwork, according to intern and PHC student Glenn Bertsch. A GenJ member since 2004, he has worked with GenJ since he came on campus in fall of 2009.
"Generation Joshua changed my life," he says. "It caused me to get involved in my country."
GenJ runs two camps a year: iGovern East and West. Given its proximity to Washington, DC, PHC provides an excellent staging ground for iGovern East, enabling the campers, among their other activities, to visit the nation’s capital. They were able to meet with Congressmen Mike Pence (IN-6), Michele Bachmann (MN-6), and Tom McClintock (CA-4).
During free time, iGovern campers enjoy the Patrick Henry College campus
Having wrapped up its conference on the East coast, GenJ looks forward to iGovern West, August 15-21, in Colorado Springs, CO. In addition to holding camps, the organization helps its 7500 members between the ages of 11 and 19 maintain their GenJ clubs, which meet regularly and mobilize during election season. Dozens of PHC students and volunteers from other colleges have led Student Action Teams to key states during the last five days of elections, making a “key difference,” asserts Estrada. GenJ hopes one day to grow to 100,000 members.
“Today’s teens are the leaders of tomorrow,” states Estrada. “We teach them leadership skills, how faith intersects with government, and how they can make a difference.”