Students interested in hiking through the San Bernardino Mountains and making a few s’mores – all for a good cause, of course – can pack up and head out with UCSB UniCamp this summer.
UCSB UniCamp offers a weeklong trip to children from low-income families in Santa Barbara. Modeled after the UC Los Angeles program, the nonprofit, student-run organization is accepting applications for student counselors to work at the Mad River Glen Summer Camp from July 8 to July 15. Interested students should stop by the UniCamp table in the Arbor today or Monday, March 6 for an application. Students can also request an application from firstname.lastname@example.org or can attend the UniCamp informational meeting in the UCen Graduate Student Association lounge at 8 p.m. on Monday.
Students selected for counselor positions must attend a weekly training session during Spring Quarter.
UCSB UniCamp Founder and Co-Program Director Jeremy Weiner said campers make arts and crafts, learn archery, swim, fish and play leadership games. Weiner, a third-year political science and history major, said counselors help bolster the participants’ self-esteem while also teaching them about self-respect and promoting the value of education.
“UniCamp gives children opportunities they don’t usually have,” Weiner said. “They get the experience of being away from the stresses of life.”
Amanda Fuqua, a second-year English major and head counselor for UCSB UniCamp, said each camp activity revolves around the central theme of learning and building skills.
“Everything has an educational undertone to it,” Fuqua said.
One leadership-based game called “Reach For Your Dreams” requires campers to list three ambitions they have for the future, and then swing from a rope – reaching out to other ropes – on a grid, Weiner said.
According to its website, UniCamp was founded at UCLA in 1934. Each year, nearly 1,000 campers between the ages of 10 and 17 participate in the weeklong trip. In addition, over 350 student volunteers work on staff, and the organization has become the nation’s largest university-based camp.
Weiner said he and Co-Program Director Shirley Truong- a third-year zoology major – started the UCSB branch of the camp in 2005.
“I wanted to take something that is an integral part of UCLA [and] create it as part of the UCSB community,” Weiner said.
Weiner said UCSB UniCamp volunteers recruit potential campers from Santa Barbara district elementary schools and from local family service agencies such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program.
Weiner said the UCSB program bases camper eligibility on four factors: the children must be at or below the poverty line, be between 10 and 15 years old, be from the Santa Barbara area and display leadership potential.
Second-year psychology major and camp counselor Gloria Graciano said she enjoys working at UniCamp, both because she relates to the children’s experiences and because it represents an opportunity to help the community.
“I came from a low-income family, and working with kids hits home to me on a lot of different levels,” Graciano said. “This is my way of giving back.” If students do not want to be a counselor, Weiner said, they can still help UniCamp by participating in future fundraisers.
Despite raising $15,000 last year, Fuqua said, the organization did not have enough money to go camping, as the cost totals at $40,000. She said the group will use money from last year’s trip to help fund this year’s.