December 15, 2020
Beyond Akeela is a unique summer program for neurodiverse teens preparing to transition to college. It blends the social connection found in a traditional summer camp community with the challenge of a college readiness program. The Beyond Akeela difference is its focus on all the essential non-academic skills neurodiverse teens need to thrive in a post-secondary setting. Neurodiverse students often struggle with forming strong peer relationships, staying organized, and advocating for themselves. Those skills are needed most when students are outside of a structured classroom setting, which makes up the vast majority of their time in college.
Beyond Akeela’s socially immersive program promotes experiential learning. Beyond Akeela creates a community that empowers teens to advocate for themselves, forge meaningful friendships, organize their schedule, and develop healthy independent living habits. These experiences are shared outside of the classroom through practice that feels natural and builds confidence. Further, these opportunities directly translate to experiences they are preparing for after high school.
Each activity at Beyond Akeela is geared toward the essential non-academic skills needed to thrive in college. Teens at Beyond Akeela take part in community service and internship experiences that simulate a job or work-study environment. The cooking program challenges campers to build recipes, grocery shop on a budget, and prepare dinner with their group. Exercise time is built into their daily schedule at camp to promote a healthy lifestyle. The social experiences teens have at Beyond Akeela are often independent and mimic those of a student entering college.
While these types of opportunities can be found in many different spaces, the environment Beyond Akeela creates enhances the learning experience. Teens are surrounded by a group of peers who share similar life experiences and future goals. For a group of teens who have struggled to find their “crew,” this type of community is transformative for them. The environment empowers teens to take healthy risks at camp and not be afraid to make mistakes. It unlocks their potential and helps them realize what they are truly capable of. The Beyond Akeela community builds confidence, independence, and the feeling of success.
In addition to the connectedness they feel to a like-minded peer community, teens at Beyond Akeela are supported by a group of caring adult mentors. These mentors come from backgrounds in education, psychology, and youth development and are experts in working with neurodiverse teens. The staff focus on developing appropriate mentor relationships with the teens. These relationships help the staff provide empathetic guidance to teens, celebrate their success, and share strategies for navigating new challenges.
Beyond Akeela gives neurodiverse teens a feeling of confidence in their ability to make a successful college transition, along with a stronger tool kit. It gives campers a sense of belonging and a foundation upon which they will launch into their post-secondary journey. Neurodiverse teens have untapped potential to be independent and successful in college. Beyond Akeela unlocks that potential.