The 23-year director of Camp Coleman, Harris now has launched J-Jolt, a mentorship program within the Union for Reform Judaism.
J-Jolt is designed for b’nai mitzvah students. They work with mentors in the community to develop intergenerational relationships and to better understand themselves and their goals.
Before Camp Coleman, Harris was the director at a JCC camp in Philadelphia and at Camp Young Judaea Sprout Lake in New York.
He observed the influence of camp counselors on youths and realized how effective mentorship could be in guiding and inspiring kids. With J-Jolt, Harris uses this understanding to create meaningful connections between youths and adults to keep teens involved in the community beyond b’nai mitzvah celebrations.
J-Jolt guides a family in choosing mentors with leadership styles that suit the youth. The program complements the individuality of each kid. J-Jolt also designs personal ceremonies in which the youths reflect on what they’ve learned and where they might be headed.
It’s a cliché that teachers often learn as much from their students as their students learn from them, but Harris said that is what happens for J-Jolt mentors. They are forced to explicate their experiences and the insights they have gained, creating better understanding of themselves.
In J-Jolt and Camp Coleman, Harris creates mutually beneficial relationships between youths and their communities.
“These are lessons that you get because somebody talked to you about those lessons,” he said. “The innovation is to capitalize on this knowledge. That’s what kids really need.”