UC Davis students and alumni are given the opportunity to volunteer and help children from foster care and underprivileged families through a two-week summer camp called Cal Aggie Camp.
“Cal Aggie Camp is a sleep-away summer camp for youth from underserved communities in Sacramento and nearby counties,” said volunteer John Vu, a fourth-year biochemistry and molecular biology major. “I believe our purpose is to provide a safe place where these kids can just be kids for a week and not have to worry about their troubles at home and the stresses in their day-to-day lives.”
Cal Aggie Camp takes place for two weeks in July. The first week is for 6- to 12-year-olds while the second week is for 13- to 17-year-olds. The camp brings about 200 children every year and the staff aims to reach out to underprivileged kids to give them a week of nature-filled adventures, free of charge.
“It is very rewarding to know you are making a difference in the campers’ lives. It teaches you to be a better leader and work together with the other counselors,” said student activities official Olivia Hirsch. “It is so much fun bonding with everyone at camp and participating in quintessential camp activities. It can be exhausting at times because it is 24 hours a day for two weeks, but watching campers grow in just a week and really enjoy the traditions at camp is amazing.”
At Cal Aggie Camp, there is a similar schedule every day for the children while the activities vary greatly. Mornings usually start off with a polar bear swim in the lake. Afternoons are filled with activities ranging from dodgeball, arts and crafts, nature walks, canoeing and dance classes. There are trips to the nearby Yuba River for the older campers and nighttime activities such as capture the flag and talent shows.
“The nighttime activity is probably my favorite part. It is always a camp-wide activity such as a campfire, talent show, scavenger hunt and capture the flag. The last night of camp is a really special night with a closing campfire,” Hirsch said. “We end the night with wish boats that the campers make during the week with things that can be found around camp. Each wish boat has a lit candle on it and they get pushed into the water. Each camper and counselor gets to make a wish on a boat. It can be a very emotional night for campers and counselors.”
UC Davis students and alumni work together to contribute to what the children say is their favorite time of the year. In addition to working with the group of kids, the counselors and volunteers are allowed to connect with other staff members because they spend 24 hours a day for two weeks together. According to director Anni Kimball, Cal Aggie Camp brings together a very diverse group of students because they have one common goal: to help kids.
Applications are available through today at vacancy.ucdavis.edu. Cal Aggie Camp is accepting applications for counselors, cooks and life guards. The requirements vary for each position, but the underlying trait that they are looking for is that applicants are passionate about working with kids and are going to be able to contribute to the fun, spontaneous and positive environment at the camp.
“Cal Aggie Camp is a chance for you to not only be a kid again in a way, but to really make an impact in your life,” Vu said. “Throughout college, we always think about ways to become successful, but when it comes down to it, the meaning in life comes from the connections you make with people and the impact and change you make in the world you live in. Over the past three years, Cal Aggie Camp has really taught me that and provided me with the opportunity to do something totally awesome and tangible with my life.”
ALICE LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.