One of the first organizations I joined at UCLA was UCLA’s official student charity: UniCamp. UniCamp gives children from low-income communities around the Los Angeles area the chance to attend an outdoor summer camp for a week at a reduced rate. At camp the kids get to try things many of them have ever done before, like rock climbing, mountain biking, fishing, or simply seeing the stars at night. Children that attend UniCamp are encouraged to aim for a bright future through various character-building activities and the bonds they create with their counselors. UniCamp counselors are all UCLA students or previous UniCamp campers who fundraise and train throughout the school year to send the kids up to camp. At 80 years old, UniCamp is also one of UCLA’s oldest charities which fosters so many traditions and has changed countless lives.
Since I joined as a freshman back in Spring 2012, UniCamp is easily my favorite thing about at UCLA. For two years I was a counselor where I worked with a group of about 10 girls throughout the week and connected with them and formed irreplaceable bonds. This year, I decided to take on a leadership position as Head Counselor Assistant, where I helped to train a group of about 80 student volunteers and helped to plan a week of camp!
Throughout the year, I admit the position took up a vast amount of my time and energy and sometimes I couldn’t wait for the week of camp to be over so I could stop being so tired. However, once the week of camp came, I knew all the efforts of our leadership team were worth it. The kids were adorable and they loved camp. The volunteers and the kids got along so well and so many of our campers talked about how much they wanted to go to UCLA when they graduated high school. Countless amounts of games were played, songs were sang, and kids and counselors got to be kids for a week. Tons of “Woodsey marriages” happened, “prison ball” games between counselors and kids got heated, and so many “shout outs” were read. We hiked in the morning and at night (and one group of older campers and counselors called WALL hiked for multiple days), we swam during the day and once at 6:00 AM for the traditional “polar bear swim” (the water is warmer than the air!), we danced, we laughed, we enjoyed nature, and on the last day we cried saying our goodbyes.
Being back down the mountain makes me miss camp so much, but also feel so proud that we all did it and we got to meet so many amazing children. I can only hope that the kids we played with for a week will one day become UCLA student volunteers, too!
Here’s a few pictures from the week:
Some of the girls and counselors from “Unit 4,” our youngest girls unit.
Campers “Pi” and “Butterfingers” showing off a painting.
More campers and counselors!
Me and the rest of the session’s leadership team in front of the mural we put together at the end of the week. The mural incorporates all of the children’s artwork throughout the week and encompasses our mission statement unique to our session’s week of camp.
“Look around before you take flight.
All that surrounds you can impact your life.
Be confident, take chances, believe in your dreams.
Soar toward your future no matter how far it may seem.
This is your journey, there are no limits to who you can be.”