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Humans of UniCamp: Owl

Reading all of these stories has reminded me a lot about my camp memories.  UCLA UniCamp was the first extracurricular activity I did at UCLA and it was the first time I was responsible for people other than my family.  I remember being the only new counselor in my first session in 1975.  It was the Exceptional Children’s Tutorial Project session for students requiring special educational services.  Having never worked with these types of students before, I really had no idea what the experience would be like.  I remember the first night when we had the campers write letters home.  I was shocked that the kids couldn’t spell simple words.  However, the thing that really stuck with me was that when I volunteered for ECTP again two years later, the kids still remembered me and the activities that we did.

Captured from HP Photosmart C4380 TWAIN (TWAIN Device). 2/6/2016 , 3:05:33 PM

ECTP 1975

I did a few other sessions including boys session and co-ed session.  I even floated a few times!  It was through my camp experiences, especially my ECTP sessions, that I found my passion to become a teacher.  I was a special education teacher for 6 years after graduation!

Captured from HP Photosmart C4380 TWAIN (TWAIN Device). 2/6/2016 , 4:27:49 PM

Boys Session 1977

Since then I have worn out all my Woodsey shirts except for one and I have participated in some Alumni events in recent years!  I attended the beach bbq and the football game in 2015!  This year I am hoping to make it to the Campfire Gala.  Hope to see you all there!

Owl is a UCLA alumnus.

Compiled by Michael “Trunks” Anderson UCLA ’12

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Woodsey Alumni Tailgate 2015

 

Human Interest, Profile

Staying Connected with Camp: The “Adopt a Session – Woodsey Mentor” Program

by Brian “Rocket” Mahler

Introduction: In 2014 and 2015, capsule I took part in UniCamp’s revived “Adopt a Session – Woodsey Mentor” program. Ideally, diagnosis this program would consist of UniCamp alumni being “adopted” by sessions at the beginning of each camp year, cialis with those alumni attending a couple training meetings, sharing their past experiences, and learning how camp has evolved. We haven’t reached this ideal yet, with this program having been limited to speaking to sessions the night before they left for camp. What follows is a version of the speech I’ve given. My hope is that fellow alumni who want to reconnect with camp will sign up to be this year’s Woodsey Mentors, with UniCamp ready to go with session adoptions before training begins!

Speech: Thank you for adopting me as your session’s “Woodsey Mentor,” even if it’s only for tonight. I first learned about UniCamp in 1993 when I was a freshman at UCLA. I was still figuring out the campus and my place in it when I saw a flyer advertising “Woodsey Winterland,” which was a camp orientation held in the woods over a weekend.   A couple weeks later, I found myself at Camp Singing Pines, a campsite that UniCamp rented from the Girl Scouts which was located in hills of the Angeles National Forest.

During the first day, I learned all about woodseys and biffies, I chose my camp name, and I was really excited to apply as a counselor in the upcoming spring.  During the night, it actually started to snow, and I convinced a fellow freshman to venture out into the woods with me.  While walking through the “winterland” of camp, we came across a shed that held some plexiglass, which we borrowed and turned into a makeshift sled.  This is awesome, I remember thinking. However, during breakfast the next day, the camp proprietor announced that a hooligan among us had damaged Girl Scout property – the plexiglass.   This sucks, I remember thinking. At that moment I really did think that my days as “Rocket” were over before they ever really began.

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Luckily, my apologies and ten dollars were accepted, and I went on to spend five summers at UniCamp.  I was a counselor for my first two years, followed by being an HCA and then an HC over my last two years. After graduating, I returned to camp for one final year to work on staff, first serving as nature specialist before joining an elite force known as “bear patrol.” Following that summer, I moved away from Los Angeles and sadly lost touch with most of my fellow woodseys, as I lacked a computer or a cell phone (insert black and white reel of me writing postcards by candlelight), and UniCamp lacked an alumni network.

Although my direct connection to camp had lapsed, the spirit of camp preserved.  I continued to camp and hike and volunteer for local children organizations.  I also began pursuing a career in which I worked with or on behalf of children, serving as a teacher and then as an attorney. Whenever I interviewed for a new position, UniCamp and its impact on my life was one of the first things I would bring up.

In 2013, my family and I prepared to move back to Los Angeles.  In the midst of this move, I contacted Mr. Woooo and asked if there was any way I could get involved again with UniCamp.  Mr. Woooo replied by asking me if I wanted to join the inaugural Program Advisory Board, whose members would be UniCamp alumni and students who wanted to have a greater role in shaping the future of camp.   As of now, this board consists four committees: Marketing, Programming, Special Events, and Alumni. I am part of the Alumni committee, which is charged with building an alumni network so that older woodseys (like myself) could find one another and younger woodseys could remain connected with camp. To build this network, we’ve led a few activities, including a beach bonfire, a “wine and dine,” a tailgate party, and this mentorship program. And as your session’s mentor, I wanted to share on you what impact UniCamp actually had on me, which is this:

For all the things I’ve done, I have never been in the “present moment” for so long than when I was at camp. During that week, I would not think about anything other my campers and my counselors and whether they were healthy, safe, and happy. Not to go all “Maslow’s Hierarchy,” but I think camp affected me this way because it was a place where I could strive to reach my ideals.

I’ve thought of these ideals as being “the four Cs.” (1) Camping – To be away from the city and itsnoise, schedules, and smog, and instead to be the woods, among trees, trails, campfires, songs, and stars. (2) Children – To be working with young people by keeping them safe, helping them learn, and hoping that they take back good memories of camp. (3) Charity – To be able to give and not expect anything in return. (4) Camaraderie – To do all of this with like-minded UCLA students who were some of the most friendly, funny, and sincere people I have ever met.

Sadly, I’ve lost touch with most of the counselors I did camp with. But that’s okay. We had our moment, and I have my memories. This next week is your moment, as you continue eighty years of UniCamp history when your campers get off the bus tomorrow. Be safe, have fun, and, when you get back, stay in touch!”

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(Special thanks to the leadership of 2014’s Session 3 and 2015’s Session 2 for letting me speak to their sessions the night before the first day of camp! Sign up to a Woodsey Mentor!)

 

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Humans of UniCamp: Flash

I am scared of heights. I would have nightmares where I find myself falling in a bottomless pit and wake up in a cold sweat only to realize that it was all a dream. During my second year of camp I was the counselor of Unit 14, one of the oldest boys units, and that meant going to the Alpine Tower. As a Marine, I emphasized to my campers throughout the week the importance of stepping up to the plate and having the courage to face their fears and conquering them, which the Alpine Tower represented.

My boys were excited to go to the Alpine Tower and I encouraged them, but deep down I was extremely terrified. The day came for us to go to the tower and everybody was hyped up. When we got to the tower, the mood changed. I felt the nervousness of my boys when it was time to go. When Catbug, one of the Alpine specialists, asked who wanted to go first, nobody volunteered. It was obvious that even though they were excited to be there, my boys were scared of going up the tower. As their counselor, I felt compelled to go. I decided to go up first because I wanted to conquer the tower myself, but more importantly, I wanted to inspire them to conquer their fears. I had told them of my fear of heights and my goal of conquering the tower myself, and I felt that if they saw me go up the tower that they would follow my lead. One of the things I learned from the Marines was the Latin motto Ductus Exemplo, which means lead by example. Together with my co-counselor, Dr. Pepper, we encouraged the kids to lead by example because the younger campers saw us as role models.

As I went up the tower, I felt my body tighten up, rebelling against my mind, reminding it that it was not physically natural to go up the Alpine Tower. I willed myself to keep going, hold by hold, crimp by crimp, not for myself, butter my campers. I wanted to show them that anything was possible and that they can do anything they set their minds to. I made it to the top and it was exhilarating. I’ve never felt so light. But the moment faded quickly, and not because I was worried of coming down. I was worried if any of my campers were even going to get on the tower.

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When I got back down, my campers quickly volunteered to go up. It was a slow approach, but each one of them wanted to try it out. I had seven campers and five of them made it to the top. The other two were not able to go all the way up, but they told me that they went further than they had before. They were proud to be the Alpha Raiders of Unit 14, and I found not have been more proud of them calling out to Doc and I and yelling, “Oorah Alpha Raiders.”

I’m not much of an emotional man, but I secretly shed a tear for my campers when they weren’t looking. They were my pride and joy. I realized then that they saw me as a beacon of courage and strength even though I didn’t see myself as such. They didn’t see the scared and anxious Flash that had a fear of heights. They saw Flash as the guy that could do anything and everything, no matter how scary and tough the challenge may be; the guy that would not let fear conquer him, but rather, he overcomes fear. When all else fails, Flash does not, and therefore, they would succeed because I would make sure that I was there for them.

I realized just how much the campers looked up to me and I promised myself that I couldn’t let them down. I had to find a way to return to UniCamp to teach the campers to become even better than they were before. That is why I decided to apply to become a CLIMB advisor. I feel that CLIMB is the perfect program where I can learn to strengthen my mind and body and in turn, I would be a better counselor for my campers. I am still deathly afraid of heights, but CLIMB is giving me an opportunity to better myself. More importantly, I have a chance to teach my campers to dare and to conquer.

Flash is a UCLA alumnus (’15) and a CLIMB advisor (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores.

Flash will be a CLIMB advisor for the 2016 camp season.

Flash will be a CLIMB advisor for the 2016 camp season.

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Humans of UniCamp: Squirtle

My first summer of UniCamp was in 2009. I was a bratty thirteen-year-old that begged my mom to not make me go. She still rubs it in my face that it was one of the best decisions she had ever made for me as a kid. Year after year, I have come back for UniCamp for the impact it continues to have on me and the impact I hope to leave on others.

I applied for LSHIP because I saw that there was room for changes to be made to push this organization from great to outstanding. We started the arts initiative because we saw that a subject once deemed as core, has turned into a privilege that too few can afford. We hope to hand a guitar or a paintbrush to the kid with great amounts of untapped potential and to help the kid who already has one, to grow.

For me, if it wasn’t for UniCamp and the arts education I received, I would not be at UCLA. Combining the two seemed like the right thing to do.

Squirtle is a second-year Art major at UCLA and Head Counselor of Session 7: Expression, Community and Empowerment Through Art (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores UCLA ’16.

Squirtle will be working with the Arts initiative as Head Counselor of Session 7 (2016) in her seventh year with UniCamp.

Squirtle will be working with the Arts initiative as Head Counselor of Session 7 (2016) in her seventh year with UniCamp.

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Humans of UniCamp: Blitzen

The first time I went to summer camp I was terrified. It was one of the first times I had been away from home without my parents, and all I wanted to do was go home.

It’s been almost fifteen years and I’ve been to camp nearly every summer since.

Growing up, I was shy, overweight and uncomfortable with myself. I thought that camp wasn’t for me because it was “outdoorsy” and it was only for the popular kids. However, half-way through my first week at camp, my counselor helped me push my limits and make new friends. I was having a great time and didn’t want the week to end – at camp I didn’t have to worry about any expectations at home and could just try being anyone I wanted to be.

After each summer, I approached my life with a new confidence and a better understanding of who I was.

When I found UniCamp as a freshman at UCLA, I realized that it was perfect for me: it could help me continue to grow and I could give back, helping make sure the experiences I had growing up were available to as many people as possible.

I’m excited to be the Head Counselor for the Health, Nutrition and Fitness session this year. We are creating a week that challenges the campers (and volunteers) to go out of their comfort zones and help everyone learn ways to become healthier people. My goal is to make an experience that would have helped my middle-school self as I struggled to manage my weight, be comfortable with my body and make healthier lifestyle choices earlier in life.

Blitzen is a UCLA alumnus (’14) and the Head Counselor for Session 6: Health, Nutrition and Fitness (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores.

Blitzen will be working with the Health, Nutrition and Fitness initiative as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 6 (2016) in his sixth year with UniCamp.

Blitzen will be working with the Health, Nutrition and Fitness initiative as the Head Counselor of Session 6 (2016) in his sixth year with UniCamp.

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Humans of UniCamp: Woody

Since I could remember I have always wanted to be somebody else. I grew up imitating my older brother and sister, so naturally when they went off to their first summer of UniCamp, I wanted to go too. When I turned 9 in 2004, I finally was able to get on that bus even though, at the time, I was oblivious to the role UniCamp would play in my life. Countless campfires, songs and Woodsey challenges helped me become comfortable with myself and become whoever I wanted to be. You see, that’s the beauty with UniCamp, it allows people to be better versions of themselves. It allows individuals to become someone they would never consider being: a mentor, a dancer, a leader or even a friend. Not until I was an OCP camper did I realize how much UniCamp meant to me. I would come home from camp and cry, wishing life at camp was life every day. As short as those moments were, they were some of the most formative experiences of my person.

Twelve years later, I have the honor of being a part of its leadership team for the 2016 camp season. Words cannot express the warm fuzzies I feel when I think how far I have come thanks to this organization. As a camper, I remember looking up to its volunteer so much that my last year, a fellow camper and I promised each other we would be LSHIP in 5 years .. here we are only 3 years later.

UniCamp taught me to lead, reach my dreams, shake my booty and constantly reminds me that no matter where you come from, you don’t have to try and be somebody else. You are unique, and no one can be a better you than you. This idea is something I want to bring to my session which is dedicated to Leadership Development and Nonviolent Communication for Urban Youth. This initiative is important to me because I see myself in the same position many of our campers may believe they are in, and having the opportunity to put on a week of camp and be that role model so many volunteers were to me comes to show just how powerful Woodsey Magic is. Being LSHIP is an awesome experience, but I will never stop being a camper at heart.

Woody is a third-year political science student at UCI and a Head Counselor Assistant for Session 5: Leadership Development and Nonviolent Communication for Urban Youth (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores UCLA ’16.

Bones will be working with the Leadership Development and Nonviolent Communication for Urban Youth initiative as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 5 (2016) in his eighth year with UniCamp.

Woody will be working with the Leadership Development and Nonviolent Communication for Urban Youth initiative as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 5 (2016) in his twelfth year with UniCamp.

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Humans of UniCamp: Bones

I joined UniCamp my freshman year when I was looking for a fun extracurricular to do at UCLA. I never would have imagined that in a short time it would grow to influence almost every facet of my life. Through UniCamp, I’ve found a family within UCLA, people who I call my best friends and who have shaped me to be the person that I am today. Even outside of UCLA I’ve met people who have done UniCamp and we instantly bond because camp is such a fiercely special experience. I think most notable of all, UniCamp’s the reason I chose to pursue a career in education. Every summer I meet the most amazing campers, and even though we’re here to teach them something, it is me who ends up learning the most from them.

I chose to do LSHIP after talking to a lot of amazing people who encouraged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I have a distinct memory of someone suggesting to me that I should join LSHIP my freshman year and my automatic response was that there was no way! Five years later, I feel so grateful to be surrounded by people who believed in me before I did because it has given me the opportunity to pursue my passions and make a real difference in the world.

AcademiCamp is an initiative close to my heart because of its tie in with education. I was so inspired to learn about all of the initiatives of UniCamp this year. To me, a lot of the needs we are addressing could be traced back to how the education system is failing our students. There is no simple solution, but the mission of our initiative is simple: we want to reignite a genuine love of learning and curiosity in our students. Using the principles of social justice education, we can empower our students by honoring social diversity and advocating for social justice in the educational system and environment.

Bones is a UCLA alumna (’15) and Head Counselor of UniCamp’s Session 4: AcademiCamp (2016). 

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores UCLA ’16

Bones will be working with the AcademiCamp initiative as Head Counselor of Session 4 (2016) in her fifth year with UniCamp.

Bones will be working with the AcademiCamp initiative as Head Counselor of Session 4 (2016) in her fifth year with UniCamp.

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Humans of UniCamp: Spearmint

I initially joined UniCamp as a camper and instantly fell in love with the magic that is so specific and unique to camp. Now eight years later, I am coming back to camp as a Head Counselor Assistant for Session 3, The Village Session. I came back as a counselor to be a role model for other people like me because I feel there is a lack of inspiration, and that is a huge motivation for me.

This year, Session 3: Community Empowerment will be partnering with The Village Nation. The Village Nation is a wonderful organization that focuses on supporting African American students to achieve both academically and holistically. Their approach isn’t just to get their kids to test higher or study better. They educate their kids on their heritage, celebrate their culture and provide them with a space to communicate openly about strong members of their community. I couldn’t be more excited to start our training and get up to camp with our kids.

Spearmint is a fourth-year Psychology major at UCLA and a Head Counselor Assistant for Session 3: Community Empowerment (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores.

Spearmint will be working with The Village Nation as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 3: Community Empowerment (2016) in his eighth year in UniCamp.

Spearmint will be working with The Village Nation as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 3: Community Empowerment (2016) in his eighth year in UniCamp.

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Humans of UniCamp: Feather

Every time I really start to think about my time as a Woodsey I am overcome by waves of gratitude. UniCamp has acted as so much more than just a student organization for me. It’s given me a family, a reason to keep moving forward and most of all a powerful outlet in which I’ve discovered myself and my passions.

As a second year at UCLA I struggled with depression and came alarmingly close to dropping out of school entirely. The only reason I stayed in college was because of UniCamp – this organization gave me a family, and with that family came resilience to every mental twist and turn I had been experiencing throughout two years of darkness and insecurity.

UniCamp gave me direction.

I applied to UniCamp as a last ditch effort to find something that could give meaning to my life, and the universe threw its most valuable card right in front of me. My world has flipped upside down since that first week at River Glen with Session Pi, 2014. I know it seems like everything we do is for the kids (and don’t get me wrong, that’s 90 percent of it), but everything I’ve experienced these past three years has inspired so much growth in me and so many of the volunteers I’ve worked side by side with that it’s impossible to say that it isn’t a two-way street. We’re never prepared for how much these kids teach us when we’re supposed to be the ones teaching them.

This year I chose to apply to be a Head Counselor Assistant because I needed to give back to the organization that’s given me so much, and it’s incredibly fitting that I’ve been placed at the forefront of Session 2’s initiative: College Readiness, so that I can help in the guidance of Project GRAD Los Angeles’ students who may find themselves in exactly the same place of insecurity and doubt that I inhabited in the earliest years of college. It’s almost impossible to be ready for the myriad of changes a university is capable of throwing at you, but those changes will have much less of an impact if you’re secure with your own existence and aware of the intrinsic qualities that have led you toward the pursuit of higher education. I hope, by sharing our own experiences, we can help lead them toward stronger ties of community and resilience and a greater awareness of mindfulness and self-care so that they have the tools necessary to develop their passions and traverse the tumultuous path toward their biggest and brightest dreams without a flicker of uncertainty.

Once you’ve experienced the Woodsey Magic, you’ll never be the same. Take it from personal experience.

Feather is a fourth-year Psychology major / English minor at UCLA and Head Counselor Assistant for Session 2: College Readiness (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores UCLA ’16.

Feather will be working with Project GRAD Los Angeles as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 2: College Readiness and Retention (2016) in her third year as a UniCamp student volunteer.

Feather will be working with Project GRAD Los Angeles as a Head Counselor Assistant of Session 2: College Readiness (2016) in her third year as a UniCamp student volunteer.

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Humans of UniCamp: Suki

The summer of 2010 was one that changed the course of my life forever. It was the first summer that I went up to camp, but not in the way that you might think. I was actually just a 16-year-old camper who never thought that, in just five years, she would be running her own week of camp as LSHIP. The girl you see in that picture was initially stubborn, quiet and didn’t really understand the meaning of camp at all. It wasn’t until that first night that I slowly began to understand how magical UniCamp really is. At campfire, my counselor asked my unit to write down all their worries and problems they had back home on a piece of paper. She made us throw them in the fire. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and it brought me closer to understanding the message UniCamp wants to send to the kids. There began my love story with this organization. It instantly changed my mentality and I was in a place where I felt safe to express myself. Coming down from the mountain, I felt something change within me and it was something that my family noticed too. I had some sort of glow, and that’s when I realized, it was magic: Woodsey Magic.

It’s real.

Being a part of Session 1: Mental Health (2016), I am more than excited to be working with Project GRAD Los Angeles. The summer of 2011, my second year of camp, I had participated in Project Grad Los Angeles’ summer institution. I know the impact that both of these organizations have on students, and working together I know that we will create a continuum of care. We are shaping our camper’s of today to be the leaders of tomorrow. Being a product of both UniCamp and Project GRAD Los Angeles, I am glad I get the opportunity to work with students who were in the same shoes as I was five years ago.

Kids need the chance to grow, to learn and to express who they really are, and UniCamp is the place for that. Singing songs, playing games and changing lives is definitely more than just a catchy motto, and my story is a testament to that.

Suki is a third-year Linguistics and Psychology student and Head Counselor for Session 1: Mental Health (2016).

Compiled by Viridiana “Chancla” Flores – UCLA ’16

Suki will be working with Project GRAD Los Angeles as Head Counselor of Session 1: Mental Health, combining both organizations she was impacted by as a young student.

Suki will be working with Project GRAD Los Angeles as Head Counselor of Session 1: Mental Health, combining both organizations she was impacted by as a young student.

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