Forty-six individual students got on a bus together. Three days later, forty-six friends came home as a group.
On the weekend of September 14, students traveled to the Santa Cruz Mountains for the trip of a lifetime. Camp Everytown, located at Camp Harmon in Santa Cruz, brought together students from all grades, races, genders and socio-economic backgrounds to truly learn about the people they pass in the halls every day.
Over the course of the weekend, members of different groups who had never said a word to one another were able to break down all previously existing barriers between them.
“The activities that we did at Camp Everytown were powerful,” senior A.J. Parajillo said. “My views on people are completely different. People that I wasn’t close with I now have a connection with and I respect them.”
During various bonding activities that are kept confidential, certain aspects of life and school were discussed, opening the eyes of many who took part.
“We discussed the racism and sexism problems at our school,” sophomore Karim Poonja said.
Although learning about others was an important part of the trip, students who went also learned something about themselves.
“It showed me a lot about myself and how others perceive me,” senior Scott Russell said. “The experience taught me that if you stereotype other people, they will stereotype you.”
Although they haven’t formally gotten together as an entire group since the trip, visitors to Camp Everytown still keep in touch. They show their pride and enthusiasm about the experience by wearing camp shirts and necklaces made at the camp to represent individuals coming together.
“When I see my campmate around we always stop to talk,” Karim said.
A.J. also keeps close to those he has met, even when he doesn’t realize it.
“A lot of us were at the Los Altos-Mountain View game sitting together,” A.J. said. “We didn’t even realize it; we’re just sticking together naturally.”
To stay in touch, Camp Everytown enthusiasts have created their own club on campus. So far, they have been gathering in P-12 on Tuesdays at lunch with Assistant Principal Cristy Dawson filling in as their advisor, but they hope to find a permanent meeting spot soon.
Those who made the trip this time have no regrets in their decision to sacrifice a weekend for the greatest experience of their lives. According to A.J., another trip is being planned for next spring in order to “allow underclassmen to go through the same experience that we went through.” Past campers have been extremely vocal in recruiting the next group to participate later this year.
“I’ve already been telling people to go,” Karim said.