By Georgia Stewart, Associate Executive Director, Camp Fire Long Beach Area
Camp Fire Long Beach Area Teens in Action participant, Alex Gomez, as part of her Wohelo project, ran a two-day camp at Carmelitos Housing Project in North Long Beach, California, this past summer. At the end of the second day, the kids were already asking if the Camp Fire teens could keep coming back. The Thrive vocabulary Alex used in closing in her report struck me as testimony to the work we do, that hope lives in us through the Thrive message of empowerment. I’d like to share it with you.

This past summer, with help from Camp Fire and school friends, Alex met with middle school girls from a Los Angeles County Housing Project, engaging them in a “book club” day camp based on the book and movie The Fault in Our Stars. Comments from the Carmelitos staff were so positive that there was immediate interest in our teens continuing their involvement with the project on a more regular basis

Alex grew up in Camp Fire and had recently completed the Counselor-in-Training (CIT) program. She said of herself during the closing campfire on her CIT Caravan that she was quiet and had a hard time expressing herself in groups. However, the Alex who stood up in front of those girls at Carmelitos, taught them games, led them in crafts, and engaged the youth in meaningful discussion and conversation about the book they had read—that Alex had found the voice she needed to be the confident leader she was during that two-day day camp.

In her Wohelo report, she said: “We talked to Lorena (the probation officer) and Jerrol (the activities director) about coming once a week for tutoring or just playing the games I taught and teaching new games. The kids there don’t get to play games like we did those two days, and they don’t have very good role models. I think it’s important for these kids to know that people do care about them. Being in Camp Fire, I have been blessed with many opportunities that few kids get, and after spending just a few days with these girls I realized how much I sometimes take this for granted.”

“Throughout my project I grew to be more vocal. But I also grew in ways that I hadn’t expected when I started this project. After my project, we talked to the directors at Carmelitos about giving Camp Fire a lasting place with both the girls that came to my camp and the other kids living there who don’t get those opportunities often. It was fun teaching them about sparks and all of the new things we had been learning in Camp Fire over the past few years because they need to know that the situation they’re in doesn’t have to be permanent. If they have a growth mindset, then they can do anything they set their minds to. Overall, this project was an amazing experience and it benefited me greatly. The entire experience was priceless.”