At Wyoming's Camp Paintrock, teens enter by crossing a bridge spanning a bubbling creek. Stepping over the bridge signifies so much more than arriving at camp with dry feet. For the young campers, the crossing symbolizes the first steps of a journey toward education and success.
Beginning with Camp Paintrock, the young people will progress through the five-year experience that motivates students for high school and college success while providing an educational boost and needed financial resources.
The camp is part of C5LA, the local branch of the C5 Youth Foundation, and Ramiro Campos and Stephanie Rios, two former campers who now work as counselors, can attest to the difference the program can make, even after high school graduation.
"If it weren't for this program and the support of the staff, I wouldn't be in college right now," says Campos, who will begin his third year at UC Riverside this fall. He plans to earn a sociology degree and then study for a doctorate.
Even after spending the summer before ninth grade at Camp Paintrock, his grades during his first year at Franklin High School in Highland Park were unimpressive; his GPA was well below the 2.5 average required to continue in C5LA. Campos became determined to improve his attitude and school record. By the end of 10th grade, Campos says, his attendance record was nearly perfect and he had raised his GPA to 4.0.
After high school, Campos had no doubts about wanting to return to Camp Paintrock as a counselor. In fact, Campos says he eventually wants to develop his own camp that would emulate the goals of C5LA. "My dream is to have something like this program," he says.
Rios also attributes her school success to C5LA. At 24, she is a Cal State Northridge graduate and works as a Camp Paintrock program director.
As a kid growing up in South Los Angeles, Rios never had much educational support and guidance. No one in her family had even graduated from middle school, so the idea of college was foreign. She says that her parents, immigrants from Mexico, "couldn't help me with school and college even if they wanted to." But she says "C5LA provided all the support and resources so that there was no excuse not to apply to college."
Now, she says, "My dream is to become the director of this program." But she'll also continue her education. "If I'm going to teach my students to reach for the stars, then I need to do that too," she says.
With $1.6 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, approximately 6,500 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.
The Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.
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