The Louis August Jonas Foundation (LAJF) is an organisation that helps aspiring young adults grow intellectually, ethically, and globally. Its summer leadership program, called “Camp Rising Sun (CRS),” brings teenagers from around the world to New York for four weeks. The mission is “to develop in promising young people from around the world a lifelong commitment to compassionate and responsible leadership for the betterment of their communities and the world.” (http://www.lajf.org/what-we-do) By participating in the program, I was hoping to be able to collaborate and build relationships with students from around the world, learn to be a better leader, and share my culture.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the camp ended up being cancelled. However, the staff organized a 10-day intensive online camp called “Virtual Camp Rising Sun (VCRS).” Thankfully, I was invited to participate in this virtual camp even though I was waitlisted. Having experienced online school for months, I as well as everybody else was probably aware that online calls can be awkward. In the first days of VCRS, it was extremely awkward. When the staff asked us about random things in an effort to ease some of the awkwardness, barely anyone responded; everyone seemed tense and anxious, including me. However, as time went by, we came to know each other very well by discussing global issues, but also random things, for at least three hours every day.
|[Title page of the 2020 Yearbook of Virtual Camp Rising Sun.
Photo credit: Justin An]
The online camp consisted of Core Days, Student-led Instructions, Project Groups, and Tent Talk Groups. Core Days are days where campers, which is what we call students in the camp, learn about major issues in the world. These days were rather serious compared to others. We delved into important issues such as servant leadership, power, intersectionality, gender, race, sustainability, and taking action in our communities. If we had just learned about these topics, they would have been difficult to understand. However, we did speaking activities in which we used the information we had learned in real-life contexts, which helped us a lot. Next on the list is Student-led Instructions, which are presentations given by volunteers on topics that individual students are passionate about. One presentation that really left an impression on me was a talk about vampires in Romanian folklore, which was truly interesting.
Another major part of the program is the Project Groups. The projects for this year, which were decided in advance, were: yearbook, talent show, blog, social media, and t-shirt. Campers submitted videos of their unique passions, such as sewing, designing logos, taekwondo, and piano, to make a talent show compilation. The blog included posts on many different subjects, such as the environment, animals, and science. Meanwhile, the social media group made an Instagram account with posts about ways to improve the environment in response to climate change. And the t-shirt group discovered a way to tie-dye t-shirts using onion skin. Lastly, the yearbook group that I was a part of made a 40-page yearbook about the whole camp.
|[The Apple House, my Tent Talk group. Photo credit: Justin An]|
My favorite part of the camp was the Tent Talk groups. These are small groups of 4 to 5 campers. Sometimes, we were to share our thoughts about what we learned on Core Days, but it was mainly for talking about rather trivial topics not specifically related to the camp and building friendships and relationships with each other. There were no teachers to guide us, so we could basically talk about anything we wanted to. I felt I could be more open with my Tent Talk members than any other campers. We talked about random things, such as TikTok, music, or just anything that came to our minds. It was by far the best part of the camp and the part in which I made the most memories.
By participating in Virtual Camp Rising Sun, I learned, in depth, quite a lot of things about the world that you wouldn’t typically learn at school. I now feel that I can do more for the communities I am a part of and truly become a leader committed to servant leadership. I also built many friendships with the campers. We are still in contact with each other to this day through Instagram. Next year, hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic will be less severe so that I can return to Camp Rising Sun once more and learn about the world and meet campers from around the world.
Grade 10 (Sophomore)
Justin An email@example.com
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