The American Red Cross engages hundreds of youth to become leaders within their communities and high schools through the Leadership Development Camp (LDC). Each year, youth within the Los Angeles region can look forward to spending a week in August at Pilgrim Pines, located in the San Bernardino Mountains, to learn the fundamentals of being a leader.
When my dad dropped me off at the Long Beach Red Cross Chapter to board the bus to Pilgrim Pines, my heart was pounding. First, I was nervous because I did not see any familiar faces. Second, I left my cell phone and laptop at home, and being a millennial, I was attached to technology. Third, it was my first time going to camp, and I was alone. As I arrived at the campsite, however, my heart was racing with joy. All around me were camp staffers parading in outlandish outfits tied to the camp theme, which distracted me from my nervousness.
As my focus returned to my surroundings and away from the outlandish staff, I noticed how beautiful the scenery was around me. We were up in the mountains surrounded by trees with a perfect view of the clear blue sky.
Shortly after, I was brought to my cabin and given my own set of outfits relating to the camp theme. I was characterized as a lifeguard with the rest of “Salem.”
After setting my luggage down in the cabin, we had some recreational time which allowed us to play ice breakers and become more familiar with each other; however, since we were there for only five days, we followed our tight schedule, which lead us down to the main lodge.
At the main lodge, we were introduced to more ice breakers. For a girl who cannot dance to save her life, I was chosen to lead one of the dances. Let me say this: what happens in camp stays in camp.
Once we went through multiple rounds of ice breakers, I was more comfortable with the people around me.
During lunch, I stood in line next to Stella, who became my closest friend from camp. We became so close that many people started asking us if we knew each other prior to camp.
When we got back to the main lodge, we went through various sessions. What surprised me the most was that the sessions for youth campers were organized by youth themselves. Also, sessions were never lecture-based. We were presented information either with a skit or taught vital leadership skills through activities. Every session had new information, and I was always left amazed by the things I learned.
I definitely give credit to LDC for giving me the planning skills I have now. After running the American Red Cross Club at my high school as club president, I can definitely say that I gathered my skills through the sessions at LDC, where I learned how to delegate tasks, work alongside a team, fundraise, and market.
The most important thing that I attained from LDC was speaking with greater confidence, and I watched my confidence grow tremendously as we were pushed to speak in front of an audience on multiple occasions- even on the first day. By the third and fourth day, speaking in front of an audience became a lot easier. I even sang for our talent show. It was a huge personal feat.
At night, we had the battle of the clans. My clan had a great dynamic with each other, which became the foundation of my camp family. We told each other everything. We laughed together, cried together (which actually happened), and won together.
The last day of camp came to an end at closing circle. As I peered up at the sky full of stars, I knew that I made the right choice coming to camp. Camp did not just give me leadership skills, but it gave me a network of new friends. From my camp experience, I was able to gain the courage to be more ambitious. I led more projects at my school as my club’s Red Cross president and eventually ran for e-board president.
Like many, I’ll continue coming back to LDC because of the success I found there. I hope others can find the magic of camp by enrolling in the Red Cross Leadership Development Camp and discover the magic for yourself!
More information on enrollment can be found here on the Red Cross LA Website. Last day to sign up is July 18th.
Jasmine Han, who will be a senior at Mark Keppel High School in fall, will serve as the San Gabriel Pomona Valley Chapter Red Cross Youth Executive Board President next year.