By Aimee YEGHIAYAN
On a recent Friday morning, waiting for the bus to arrive, the high school camp staff was
impatient, smiling but with a glimmer of fear, ready for Camp Firework to begin. Camp Firework is a three-day leadership camp held at Camp Highland, a site nestled in the San Gorgonio Pass between San Bernardino and Palm Springs. Camp Firework was created by a group of seven Crescenta Valley High School students as an alternative leadership experience for Rosemont Middle School students.
“We decided to begin this camp after our experience at [another camp],” said Camp Firework co-founder Karen Lee. “To be honest, it was boring. The information given was really great but how it was presented was not middle school friendly. That’s when we, the co-founders, decided that we could make a leadership camp much better and more fun. [We’re] 90% hands on, 10% theory.”
The camp’s mission is to develop confident leaders with good citizenship and a strong commitment to service through
hands-on activities. What is unique is who is leading the leaders. Not only is the camp student-created but it is student-run, with mentor supervisors.
“Last year, we taught only the core values that were important to becoming a leader,” said Lee.
“As this year progressed, we [looked deeper to discover the ideals] of becoming a leader as well as a dynamic follower. This year’s camp was different because we went into depth of how to become a better leader.”
The high school counselors, co-founders, other high school students, and adults, including Rosemont staff Karen Bomar and Laura Rivera, worked to make a memorable experience for over 40 campers. Counselor positions were available to both CV and Clark Magnet high school students.
From the moment Rosemont students stepped off the bus, they were welcomed. A human tunnel was formed by Camp Firework staff who cheered and “high fived” the middle school kids as they made their way through the tunnel.
Over the three days, the Rosemont students took part in several activities to foster their strengths as leaders and followers. One of the activities involved the students breaking into groups of about 10. Some of them were blindfolded and had to assemble a puzzle at the direction of their team members. The exercise helped those blindfolded develop listening skills and, for those not blindfolded, hone the ability of giving vivid direction.
Though together for only three days, the changes seen in the campers were evident, saidcamp counselor and Crescenta Valley High School graduate Jacob Magaña.
“We actually saw the Rosemont students grow and we saw them changing,” he said. He relayed how one particularly shy boy blossomed, helping his group and leading. “The changes are very fast, but in the end we had a lot of kids giving a speech of their experience, offering some positive feedback.”
The feedback gathered is essential, Magaña added. He said the information helps the counselors guide the experience for the next year’s camp.
“My favorite part of Camp Firework is the emphasis that everyone puts on leaving the person you are at home behind to break out of your shell,” said counselor and Clark Magnet student Tina Stephens. “The camp allows kids to discover a new part of themselves, which is awesome because they can take that new part of them back home.”
Preparation for 2014 Camp Firework is already underway.
To learn more, visit www.campfirework.org.