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Opening Your Heart and Finding Your Voice at Camp Up with People

At Camp Up with People diversity is a core pillar of our summer camp program. What makes us diverse is not always where we are from or what we look like. At the start of each session, we gather a diverse group of personalities- teens with a wide variety of talents, experiences, an interests. There are campers who join us ready to grab the microphone and take center stage! Other camper’s have not yet found their voice yet. Katie, a past camper, shares how her summers at Camp Up with People has helped her to open her heart to herself and others while finding her voice.

“Growing up I was really shy. I always had something to say but it didn’t come out. I’ve always wanted to break out of my shell but didn’t know how to. I thought a summer at a big traditional summer camp would help, but turns out it wasn’t really for me. That’s when my parents found Camp Up With People.

Camp Up With People isn’t like your ordinary camp. Instead of walking away with mosquito bites and sunburns you walk away with lasting friendships, confidence, and a more understanding world view. The program uses the performing arts to teach kids about leadership skills, community service, global awareness, team building, and diversity. We did activities like taping stereotypes to each other’s backs and writing about our assumptions and beliefs that fell into those stereotypes. The activities forced us to confront sensitive subjects. It was difficult to leave my comfort zone, but it showed me that what is right is not always what is easy. The compassion of the other campers helped me to open up my feelings and not get judged.

I carried this experience with me after camp, surprising my friends and family. I started speaking without having to hesitate, I wasn’t afraid to share my opinions even if I may have been wrong. Even though I was becoming more expressive it didn’t create conflict with my friends and family; it strengthened our bond. I have always had a voice but Camp Up With People gave me the microphone to open up to the world.

I felt better about myself, I cared less and less about others’ misconceptions about me. I knew that the only opinions that mattered to me where those from the ones who loved me unconditionally. My basketball skills grew too as I grew more confident to make my shots.camp up with people summer camp friendships

As I went into high school Camp Up With People helped me to become more social and have the courage to make new friends. I walked through the hallways with a different view. I didn’t know what my future would be, but I knew that it was in my control. I haven’t abandoned who I once was but I’m more confident in who I am.

The cultural awareness at Camp Up with People helped me understand the diverse backgrounds of my life. I was adopted from Guatemala at 13 months brought into the family by two moms, one from Maryland and one from Ohio, combining that with a new sister of Mexican heritage who would arrive 5 years later. I live in a multi-cultural family. Camp UP With people helped me see how unique, special, and priceless diversity can be. I now have a greater appreciation of the world around me. Knowing that what makes us different makes us united. We all belong somewhere in this world. We just have to put in the time, effort, and perseverance to discover it.

Above all, I want others to know that I will never judge them for what is outside of their control. I now know that I have the compassion for others that I once held back not knowing it was keeping me from being my best self. My heart is open and it will never close again.”

-Katie, USA  Casts: B’17, B’18, B’19