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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Campus sets up camp in gym

    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students act as counselors for a weekend at Camp Wildcat where local kids sleep in Bear Down Gymnasium and do fun activities.
    Jake Lacey
    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat Students act as counselors for a weekend at Camp Wildcat where local kids sleep in Bear Down Gymnasium and do fun activities.

    Bear Down Gymnasium served as an enormous cabin for UA and Valencia Middle School students who spent the weekend “”camped out”” at the UA.

    The 30 UA students and 35 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders made the gym their home away from home as part of Camp Wildcat’s second “”Camp on Campus,”” an event that brings middle school students from disadvantaged schools to the UA for a weekend of games, songs and activities designed to be fun, educational and self-affirming.

    “”We want to both promote college as an attainable goal and promote success in life,”” said Camp Wildcat Chairwoman Katie Paulson, a senior majoring in English. “”Merging the middle school students with the university is much more powerful than taking them to a tent camp.””

    The club hosts tent camps throughout the year as well. Like the Camp on Campus, these events reach out to students attending Tucson’s many schools designated Title 1, a label signifying that more than 40 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch plans.

    “”We want to be able to show them there are possibilities out there, and there’s people who care and want to help them,”” said Betsy Carroll, an anthropology senior and Camp Wildcat counselor. “”This camp might not have a direct effect on their futures, but it plants a seed, and that needs to happen sometime.””

    The club hosted its first Camp on Campus two years ago and although plans for last year’s camp were scrapped due to scheduling conflicts, Paulson said she is glad to have it back and hopes to “”make it a yearly tradition.””

    This year’s event was co-directed by Paulson, a former Arizona Daily Wildcat columnist, and Camp Wildcat campus coordinator Allison Grossman, a political science senior. Grossman said it took about a month to put together the event, and it cost the club more than $400 in fundraised money to reserve the gym.

    “”We elect directors for the camps four weeks in advance,”” Grossman said. “”Spring break gave us a little bit of downtime since everyone was gone.””

    The middle school students were picked up after school on Friday, taken to Bear Down Gym and provided sleeping bags and bed pads by the club members, who would serve as the weekend’s camp counselors.

    The students were broken into five groups of about six campers and four counselors, who led the groups through a rotation of activities on the second day of camp.

    These activities took campers to the far corners of campus. While one group built foam-board bridge models at the Architecture building, another was across campus conducting chemistry experiments, which sixth-grader Sammy Padilla, 11, said were the highlight of his weekend.

    “”We did an experiment on pennies,”” Padilla said. “”We took new ones and changed them colors, and we put a very old one in the fire to make it turn gold.””

    The campers also took part in plenty of traditional camping activities like singalongs, skits and games like elbow tag, capture the flag and basketball, which Ethan Trujillo, 13, said was his favorite part of the camp.

    “”Capture the flag was awesome, and basketball too,”” said Trujillo, also a sixth-grader. “”The counselors made it a lot more fun because they made sure everything was fair.””

    Three of the counselors also had the daunting task of feeding the entire camp for the weekend, cooking up traditional camping fare like chili and cornbread, hot dogs and pancakes with syrup on propane stoves and a charcoal grill outside the gym.

    Yesterday the campers played games focused on building teamwork and self-esteem. They also made awards from markers and paper plates for counselors and campers to give to one another.

    “”We like to focus on positive affirmation activities on Sunday,”” Paulson said. “”They help build confidence and let them know that we love them even though we’ve only known them for two days.””

    By 1 p.m. yesterday, the campers were ready to be bused back to school, and everyone agreed that though the weekend was a lot of fun, they looked forward to going home for a shower and a good night’s sleep in their beds.

    “”Sleeping in Bear Down is not the most pleasant experience,”” Paulson said. “”You can hear everything. Someone could drop a pin at the opposite corner and it would still wake me up.””

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