Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning

by Silicon Valley FACES
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Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning
Camp Everytown - Social-Emotional Learning

The Courage to Tell My Story

I’m honored to be here today to tell my story, which is hard to tell and may be hard to hear. It fluctuates from lows to highs, but my life has been turbulent so peaks and valleys come with the territory. But it’s also about how Camp Everytown gave me the tools to change my life.

Growing up I was excited about everything around me; I thought cartoons and happy meals were the best things in life. I was pretty social, had some good friends, and I always had a smile at school - not because I loved school, because I mean who does? But it was because school was my outlet. It was my safe place to be that wasn’t home, becausehome was definitely not a safe place for me…

I was living in a home with violence, abuse and poverty – and because I didn’t know any different, I thought it was normal. My mom was a gambling addict and my dad led a life of lies and adultery. Almost every night there was fighting – the sound of breaking dishes became routine. I could take the loud arguments, but when my parents got physical, it really affected me. Instead of happy childhood memories, most of what I can remember was trying to pull my dad off of my mom.

As BIG as this was for me, I didn’t talk about it to anyone until 5th grade. I was acting out in class, so my teacher took me outside to talk to me. I suddenly broke down, crying to her, telling her that my mom calls me “Stupid, worthless and a bastard like my dad.” And that she said it to me every single day. I don’t know why I broke down to my teacher that day; I didn’t tell her everything because I did not want her to call my parents. Because I was always told to keep things to myself and what happens at home, stays at home.

The bright spot for me was school. I had a 3.8 GPA, all A’s except in that dreaded math class, and I made friends easily. School life was good, but sadly my home life was just getting worse. My dad left us and my older sister, my protector, moved out.

School was still my outlet. I relied on my friends for happiness and stayed away from home as much as possible. I was so comfortable with my friends that I had the courage to tell them I was gay at the age of 12! Of course my mom didn’t take it well, but my friends supported me. And even though I had the courage to come out, I still couldn’t talk about my home life.  All the abuse I experienced left me feeling totally worthless.

I was spiraling down and started hanging out with the wrong crowd. I made some bad decisions, many were illegal and I was arrested at age 14. As the officer was talking to me, the only thought in my head was “No one cares about me, so why should I care.”

Getting arrested woke me up. I began telling myself “I’m not going to be the bad person that my mom says I am,” and I wanted to show my dad what he was missing. I started making better decisions, hung out with more positive friends and I actually graduated middle school with a 4.0, proving my mom wrong.

High school was a new adventure and provided some amazing opportunities, and one of them was Camp Everytown. It was an experience I will never forget.

My intentions with Camp Everytown weren’t the greatest. I said to myself “Yes! I get to skip school and get free food? Hell yeah I’m going.”  Never thought I would be returning to school as a changed person. I went to camp thinking we were going to do the stereotypical things we see in movies: making bracelets and singing around a campfire, but boy was I wrong… Camp Everytown was raw. The activities were about real issues affecting society, youth and ourselves. I was blown away. Never would I have thought that we’d be talking about racism, sexism, stereotypes and prejudice, let alone that we would start to open up like we did. There was crying, hugs and tons of emotions erupted from people I never expected, especially me.

One activity we did that really hit me was the privilege line, where we all held hands and were asked a series of questions. Some examples were if you ever had to worry about your next meal take a step back and if you were ever told by your parents that they loved you, take a step forward. In the end, if you were standing in the back, you were the least privileged and if you were in the front you were the most. I ended up towards the back, but boy was I shocked looking around-- some of my friends were standing all the way in the back and my heart dropped. These people I knew who had the brightest smiles were standing back there. They had gone through things I could never imagine and some things that I have experienced. In that moment, I felt my mind open for the first time.

As we all got closer, I felt safe enough to tell my story to one other student. I remember my voice trembling as I tried to hold back my tears. A weight lifted off my shoulders, like a heavy backpack I’ve carried my whole life. I was able to tell her, because I felt safe knowing that she and the others at Camp would understand. I wasn’t alone anymore.

I made tons of new friends from my own school and students from Foothill High school who attended camp with us. And I am proud to say I still keep in touch with them today. Going back home, I looked at the world in a whole new light. I felt enlightened and excited about life again. I became more compassionate and empathetic.

That following summer I interned for a San Jose City Councilmember and embarked on other opportunities – mostly afterschool clubs. My problems at home were still going on, but I kept busy by volunteering, which gave me value.

Camp changed me, it did not change my home life. It was still really bad. There were times when we didn’t have electricity or water, let alone anything in the fridge. And my mom’s new man was gambling too, so the fighting continued. Towardsthe end of my sophomore year, I finally snapped. I was tired of everything and felt helpless. It was a really bad time and I felt completely alone.

I stopped going to school all together for the last month of my sophomore year and in my junior year, I officially dropped out. I felt like I was in a vortex of darkness that no one could understand. I put myself in a shell.

It took time, but through good friends, my shell slowly cracked. I began to have hope again. That memory of Camp Everytown, when I realized, “I’m not the only one going through things -- that other people have power to keep going -- so why can’t I?”

I remembered the joy I felt after sharing my story at camp and I rushed to email my school counselor and poured everything out to her – asking for a second chance to go back to school and to graduate with my friends. When my counselor helped me get back on track with school, I finally felt hopeful.

I got back into school and was back at city hall, but this time with a paid internship. I actually had two jobs then, so that I could buy a car!! That was huge for me, after using public transportation my whole life! I felt OK for once in my life. I wasn’t worrying too much and felt like I was on the right path.

I did graduate with my friends and with honors. At senior honors night, I spoke in front of everyone about my story and I ended my speech with a quote. Muhammed Ali once said “I hated every minute of training, but then I said ‘Don’t quit - suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” At that moment I felt like a champion.

A lot has changed since then – I have a new outlook on life. Camp Everytown gave me the courage to open up to others and I am blessed to have gained countless friends and mentors along the way who helped me become who I am now. Some of you are here in the room today and I say “thank you”!

Moving forward, I want to inspire other youth who don’t have a support system, who think they don’t matter, just like how I felt all my life. Because guess what? They do matter. Regardless of where we come from, what we’ve been through, the color of our skin, our gender, our sexual orientation, we all deserve to know that we matter.

Camp Everytown made a huge impact on me. It lit a fire inside me. It gave me the tools in here to allow myself to connect to others. That’s a big part of what saved me – the people who heard my story -- heard me -- and cared. I learned to open up to what’s going on around me, to be self-aware, and to be brave. The result is that I have built my own support system and a family I’ve always wanted that I never had. Camp Everytown helped me find the courage to change my life forever. And with that I say thank you FACES and to the Camp Everytown Family. YOU GUYS ROCK!

Thank you.                                                  

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Camp Everytown Delegates
Camp Everytown Delegates

As we head into our 2017 season, we take this moment to send warm thanks to our generous donor community. Your support made it possible for us to host six camps!

As you know, Camp Everytown has a long history of being a space where high school students build empathy and leadership skills, and our 2016 camps were no exception. Here's Nick's story: 

"The first night alone disproved my initial beliefs, as the Prejudice activity showed how hurtful some stereotypes are to people.  Not only this, though, but it was even more of an eye-opening experience to be on both sides of the stereotypes—oppressed and oppressor.  As the oppressor, it hurt greatly to see that some preconceived notions that I agreed with—some that I even suggested—damaged the oppressed so dearly, how it spurred them to tears.  As the oppressed, though, I truly felt the pain of a stereotype.  I went outside with those that either had a disability themselves or had family with a disability—mind you, though, I went not with myself in mind, but my 21-year-old sister.  I say so because, not only does she, too, have Alopecia (in fact, she was diagnosed a year before I), but she has ADD and dyslexia, atop that.  After returning to the main group when they had finished with listing stereotypes about our group, and seeing claims such as “stupid”, “useless”, and “shouldn’t work”, it was difficult to bite back the tears and anger that washed over me, as she is one of the most independent people that I know, who has worked three jobs at once before, alongside going to college and taking care of a horse.  Put simply, I disagreed strongly with the above statements.

Ultimately, though, undergoing this truly made me realize how harmful any given stereotype may be to aperson, having experienced said harm firsthand.  I may have had a rough idea of the emotions they can inflict, but never before had I understood fully the depth the piercing capabilities that a single word can have on a person."

When you help us cover the costs of Camp Everytown, you help make our world more kind and more fair. How very important your partnership is to us and to the world!

Donor Thank You
Donor Thank You

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  • Camp Anytown/Everytown is an experience that stays with you through the years. Even after over 15 years after attending camp, many of the lessons learned at camp how up in my day to day both in personal and professional settings. Issues that relate to racial stereotypes, socio/economic backgrounds, and gender discrimination and stereotypes.
  • When I watched the Camp Everytown video from last years luncheon, it brought back vivid memories of my experience of camp. The memories and emotional attachments were so strong and ingrained in my mind that watching the clips of the exercises I did some 15 years ago, brought tears to my eyes as those memories flashed before me. Watching the video made me re-live my camp experience. Something a profound and powerful as my camp experience cannot be easily forgotten. It has shaped who I am today.
  • Empathy and understanding empathy goes a long way. Being able to connect with others and feel what they have experience brings a deeper level of connection, even to strangers. The world would be a better place more people understood empathy and/or found ways to try to empathize with others.  Because of this, I feel strongly that more people should attend camp. 
  • With everything happening in the news around Xenophobia, racial shootings, gay equality, human rights, and many more, it even more important that programs like SV Faces and their effort for Camp Everytown get the support that it deserves. Helping to secure the future of our children start with promoting a culture of empathy, inclusion, and diversity. By informing, educating, and empowering our youth, we can hope that they hep promote a brighter future.
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Elizabeth Ha & Jim Yang
Elizabeth Ha & Jim Yang

If I had to choose one word for Camp Everytown and Camp Common Ground it would be "AMAZING"!  But one word isn’t enough to describe these two programs.

My story with FACES began in 2012, my freshman year at Live Oak (Morgan Hill) -- going to Camp Everytown. All of us campers were a little apprehensive since we had no idea what to expect. But who knew that taking that leap of faith -- going to a camp no one knew anything about and not having many friends attending -- would change my perspective in life forever?

Camp Everytown was a life-changing experience, and to be able to grow as a person amongst my peers is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Participating in the different activities at Camp made us teenagers become aware of what our actions and others’ actions can do, whether positive or negative. Camp was a safe place, a place where we could be ourselves and not have to worry about somebody judging us or being rude. We got to know and respect each other, and we learned that, if we put ourselves or others down, someone would call us on it.

Being able to talk freely about the detrimental effects of racism, sexism, and bullying, etc., and how to fix the problems that we face in high school and in the world, was an opportunity given to us at camp that we aren't necessarily given at school; it was truly an eye opener, especially when it came time to share our personal stories.

Camp seemed like the longest, yet shortest, four days of my life. And when it came time to leave, no one wanted to. But when we did go back to school, we campers made a big impact by sharing what we learned with others who were not able to experience such a program.

I personally loved camp so much that I went back my sophomore year as a Counselor-in-Training to relive the experience and further grow as a person. And just as I expected, it was even more amazing than my first time.

Then, in the summer before my senior year, I got to expand on my FACES journey by volunteering for Camp Common Ground at Britton Middle School.

Camp Common Ground is a whole other experience compared to Camp Everytown, although they are similar in scope. (Note: Camp Common Ground is for students transitioning into middle or high school.) Being able to mentor incoming 7th graders was so much fun and seeing their transformation from Day 1 to Day 3 was indescribable -- I was so happy to see them grow so much.

I had ten 7th graders, some of whom I still talk to, and two of my students became best friends (Crystal and Savannah). Crystal actually returned to the next year’s Common Ground at Britton to help out as an 8th grader. I was so happy to see her and to know that she still implements what she learned at Camp Common Ground in her life, and that she and Savannah are still the best of friends!

The next year's Camp Common Ground offered the same atmosphere as the year before -- largely due to much of the Ground Crew returning for another year, which was amazing! I cannot thank the Ground Crew team enough because, without them, not much would be accomplished.

And without being introduced to FACES, I wouldn't be the person I am today, and for that I am forever grateful. "Alone we go faster, but together we go farther," is a quote that was stated at my second Camp Everytown, and something that I will always remember. 

And thus has been my story and experience with FACES through Camp Everytown and Camp Common Ground. 

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Me: Then
Me: Then

How Camp Everytown Helped Me be Me

By Linda Z.


There is definitely a long-term impact of attending Camp Everytown back in 2009. During that period of time, I was a high school junior and it was only a year after I was diagnosed with lupus. I was put on a regimen of immunosuppressants and steroids that caused my face to become extremely swollen to the point beyond recognition, even by my closest friends. As an adolescent trying to fit into high school, it was humiliating for me to walk around getting stared at by my peers who didn't understand what I was going through.


However, going to Camp Everytown helped me understand that a lot of judgement by my peers stemmed from a lack of
awareness. I realized that I, too, am guilty of making judgments about others due to my own limited understanding.
Today, I share my story, ask questions, and listen to others in order to develop a better mutual understanding. This open-mindedness also translates very well to the future career in medicine that I envision for myself where being understanding and empathetic is extremely important when delivering high-quality patient care. I just graduated with honors from UC Berkeley this past May with a Bachelor’s in molecular and cellular biology and am currently applying for medical school while working at a startup company in San Francisco. 

Me: Now
Me: Now

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Organization Information

Silicon Valley FACES

Location: San Jose, CA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SV_FACES
Silicon Valley FACES
Tuyen Fiack
Project Leader:
Tuyen Fiack
Silicon Valley FACES
San Jose, California United States

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