I’m not a genius. I don’t have super powers. What’s so special about me? I grew up a privileged child. And that’s not fair. What distinguishes me is not what I have done, but what I have been given. I feel that I owe my accomplishments to the many that haven’t had the kind of privilege that I have.
My parents both came from small, tight-knit Kansas towns. Neither parent enjoyed a childhood of luxury. They studied hard to climb the socioeconomic ladder. They became doctors and they moved to California.
Palo Alto is a beautiful, idyllic place to be a child. As a child here, you’re offered Math Academy, children’s theatre, after school youth programming, and tutoring of every kind. In short, it’s the perfect place to grow up.
This is the world into which I was born. Growing up here, it was not uncommon to see Steve Jobs at my sister’s softball games. I thought nothing of it. As a young person, you don’t realize the overwhelming peculiarity of the situation you’re in. It does not occur to you that other people have different experiences, perhaps less happy ones. It does not occur to you to compare what you have with what others have at all.
Camp Everytown really solidified for me the idea that I was much more fortunate than others. We did one particular activity that drove this point home. I ended up physically separated from everyone else — the extreme point on a spectrum of privilege — and it was a solemn and hard-hitting moment for me.
It led me to completely acknowledge that to grow up in a place like Palo Alto is very rare. My opportunities make me incredibly lucky. The idea that “we are privileged because we are special” seems to prevail here, but I know that the opposite is true. We are special because we are privileged.
I also came to accept that I am the problem. I’m no more responsible for their misfortune than my own privilege, but while I have opportunity, countless other children of my generation live without. For me, this understanding comes with a sense of responsibility. I must ensure that what they have been robbed of is not squandered on me.
Obviously, the experience I gained at Camp Everytown has driven me to live my life in closer observance of my privilege. I think that the value of a place like Everytown, where no topic is off-limits and where people feel safe, is that everyone can stand to learn and gain from it. In fact, I would say that the people who gain the most from it are precisely those like me, who come from a world where opportunities abound. But we cannot have this experience if it is only us at Everytown; it is crucial to have a diverse array of attendees. It is crucial to maintain the diversity that inspires students to acknowledge their differences, and then leave them behind to converge over their common humanity.
Meet Duy! Duy is a proud Camp Everytown alumnus. As he reflects back on his Camp Everytown experience, he states:
"I was, for the most part, disempowered. That however, all changed when I experienced my first Camp. I became exposed to a new way of thinking, opening my mind and my heart to the concept that we are all one. For the first time, race, ethnicity, what people wore, or how they looked didn't matter, for I learned that everyone has a voice. And, I learned that in order for me to better my future I had to change who I was and my thought process. Thanks to Camp, I did change for the better."
Since graduating from high school, Duy has continued his involvement with the program as a camp facilitator and is now:
“…proud to say that I am married and have a bi-racial daughter to whom I plan to pass on my open mindedness, compassion, and acceptance of others."
Your support has helped us to change the lives of people like Duy. Because of you, we are building a community with more empathy and less prejudice. Thank YOU!!
We just completed the 2012-2013 school year! Leigh High School rounded out a school year that included 15 high schools attending Camp Everytown.
Post-Camp survey results show the profound effect Camp Everytown had on Leigh High School students:
Here's what Leigh students had to say about their experience:
"Camp inspired me to help others and not be judgmental."
"I now see myself as someone with a greater ability to see the beauty in everyone and to be willing to understand how and why people are the way they are."
"I like the fact that I never felt judged, and people who I had never met became my best friends."
"Camp Inspired me to think about what's inside people, rather than outside."
These outcomes are made possible by people like you! Thank you!!