As volunteer recruitment draws to a close, we finish our “Why Do I Do UniCamp” series with Touchdown. Although he was only able to do one year of camp, his article shows just how much of an impact UniCamp had on his life.
When I graduated from elementary school, I I couldn’t wait to get to middle school…
When I graduated from middle school, I couldn’t wait to get to high school…
When I graduated high school, I just wished that I could go back to elementary school and do it all over again…
So when I found out about Unicamp – about the songs, the games, the activities – I thought that, as a college senior, it might be the closest I could get to being a kid all over again. That is what initially drew me to UniCamp. Once I educated myself on UniCamp and found out what it was all about, my focus immediately shifted from “How can being a part of UniCamp impact my life?” to “How can I impact others’ lives by being a part of UniCamp?”
As a high school sophomore I got involved with a youth organization called Young Life, that over the next three years, changed the course of my life. I spent one of the most memorable weeks of my life at a Young Life summer camp. And the organization remained constant as a positive guiding force in my life, as did the mentors I met and grew to model myself after. I know first hand how a youth organization and/or camp experience can impact an adolescent in his/her formative years. Young teenagers and pre-teens are at a stage in their lives where their minds and conceptions about the world are most malleable and susceptible to outside influence. Thus, I know my interaction with them and belief in them could potentially leave a lasting impression on them, much like the impression Young Life left on me. Frankly, I want to leave this world a better place than I found it; and I firmly believe that youth outreach is one of the most direct and effective means of doing so. I volunteer with Unicamp because my personal goals blend seamlessly with its mission to provide a positive experience and inspire young children in a way that could change the course of their lives. I do UniCamp because I want to make a difference; and because I know I can.
As camp season began and I saturated myself in the UniCamp experience/culture, I found myself benefiting more from UniCamp than I could have ever imagined. UniCamp was the light of my life throughout my final quarter at UCLA. Never in my life had I grown so close to so many amazing people in so little time. I relished every minute of the trainings, socials, and retreat that had been planned for us. I hadn’t even experienced a week at camp yet, and UniCamp had already become the glowing hallmark of the time I spent at UCLA.
And then came camp… 50+ volunteers, 150+ campers, and countless hours spent in preparation for a week that would change everyone who was part of it. And as I sit now, reflecting on the week that was, I can’t help but smile. It stands today as one of the best weeks of my life, and the cherry on top of the banana split sundae, otherwise known as my UCLA experience. I got to know the stories of 17+ kids. I was able to interact with so many others. I learned from them, as well as all of the individual experiences/perspectives they had to offer. I soaked in the joy and exuberance that so many of them projected. I witnessed their bravado. Then, I watched them throw it out the window in exchange for unadulterated silliness. I was allowed to free my gloriously unrestrained inner child for substantial chunks of time. And most importantly, I got to help show campers that, despite what they may believe in the present, life isn’t always about being too cool for school… Sometimes it’s about playing games and singing songs. Sometimes it’s about being as silly as possible, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says. Sometimes it’s about stepping up and being a leader, even if you’re uncomfortable with it. Other times it’s about listening to what other people have to say, even if you feel like there is something you need to share. Sometimes it’s about family. Sometimes it’s about friends. But it’s always about treating the people around you the way you want to be treated. It’s about grace and compassion. Benevolence. That’s what life is about… Always.
As counselors our primary agent of change is our behavior. Lead by example first. All week, we wanted our unit to be a brotherhood based on trust and respect for one another. We wanted campers to understand/trust that we had their backs. My co and I did everything we could to communicate that. And while they all took different paths in warming up to these notions, what was important to us was that by the final night in the cabin, they were all down to bunk and/or sleep on the floor together; by the end of the week, they had each other’s backs. Lead by example first…
While we were focused on opening kids’ hearts and minds to us and to one another, they were returning the favor without even knowing it. Everyone wins… That’s UniCamp for you.
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