Youth Camp Works to End Bias, Bigotry, Racism

21 February 2018, 8:55 AM

URI North America is thrilled to welcome one of our newest Cooperation Circles. We know that we are stronger together!

Diverse youth sit and talk with one another

CAMP ANYTOWN  - Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Contact Person: Rico Ocampo, Program Director,  campanytownlv@hotmail.com
  • Mission Statement: Our mission statement is "To create communities based on inclusivity, respect, and understanding through youth leadership and empowerment."
  • Areas of Focus: Youth, youth leadership development, youth diversity education
  • Website: www.anytownlv.org

"We value youth because Anytown works from the premise that we live in a multicultural society and that young people are the nation’s future. Therefore, youth need to be sensitized to the experiences of diverse groups if- as decision makers- they are expected to make fair judgments in improving the quality of life for the entire nation regardless of ability, ethnicity, faith/religion, and gender.”

When Rico Ocampo, Camp Anytown's Program Director, first heard about URI, it was at a conference in San Diego.

“I didn’t have a full grasp of what URI was ... it kinda blew my mind!" Ocampo went onto to add that, because of that experience, he now knows he can reach out to others and learn from their programs.

A group of three people involved with Camp Anytown met with URI for an Appreciative Interview as part of their application process. When discussing the URI Preamble, Purpose and Principles (PPPs), their reasons for wanting to be a part of the URI family were so clear. “I just loved [the Preamble, Purpose and Principles],” said camp counselor Sofia Schersei. “It just stood out to me, how much respect [URI] has...Respect is a huge thing… [Respect] implemented in celebrating the differences and not making one ‘more than’ the other. I love that!” she said, later adding that when she read the principle "URI is a bridge-building organization, not a religion," she said "We should be part of that!”

Diverse youth interact with one another at Camp Anytown Las Vegas

Diverse youth interact with one another at Camp Anytown Las Vegas.

As Ocampo continued to explain why Camp Anytown was a perfect match for URI, he added, “Ten years ago, I had never met a Muslim youth. Then I actually started valuing people more because of what they believe and went into that perspective of, 'She’s Muslim, but she’s my sister, right?' That’s what Camp Anytown does when we go up the mountain [where camp takes place],” Ocampo continued, “a lot of times a student will encounter their first youth who is Muslim...their first youth who is atheist, who is Pagan and they get to hear from them directly instead of the stereotype and stigma.”

The best thing about Camp Anytown? They keep learning and getting better every year. Schersei shared that, every year, camp gets more diverse.

“We have homeless kids, and kids from the richest neighborhoods in Las Vegas...coming together, and they are equals," she said enthusiastically adding that every year, she grows too. "Even as staff, I learn something.”

Schersei said that at camp discussions on a lot of issues the world is facing today come up. “You think you come to camp for one issue...and we end up talking about ten things that are applicable, [not only] in Las Vegas... in the US, but on the Earth as a whole.”

More about Camp Anytown (information taken from their website):

Camp Anytown Las Vegas has been operating in Las Vegas for 50 years. In the past 10 years they have been able to put together 20 youth leadership camps with over 1,400 youth participants.

Anytown works from the premise that we live in a multicultural society and that young people are the nation’s future. Therefore, youth need to be sensitized to the experiences of diverse groups if- as decision makers- they are expected to make fair judgments in improving the quality of life for the entire nation regardless of ability, ethnicity, faith/religion, and gender.

Camp Anytown Las Vegas is a growing movement training students in diversity and inclusivity through the use of youth leadership. Our leadership program includes the participation of 60-70 high school leaders, and over 35 community volunteers.  Student delegates are referred to the program through the Clark County School District, local faith houses, community organizations, and through personal/self-referral.  Through our fundraising efforts, we offer this camp at no cost. However, in order to be considered for camp, all applicants must be between the ages of 14 – 18 years old and be at least a freshman in high school. Camp Anytown is held at a Clark County facility in Lee Canyon called Camp Lee Canyon.

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If you would like to know more about Camp Anytown's programs, processes, how you can get involved or how you can start a similar program in your community, contact Rico Ocampo at campanytownlv@hotmail.com.

This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Robyn Lebron. You can read more of her work here

 

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