Paly students attend Camp Unity at the Camp Harmon site in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The camp grounds is in the middle of a forest and is surrounded by trees and a river. (AP Photo/ Arian Chandra)
Back in September, my friend and I saw a Schoology notification asking students to consider signing up for Camp Unity, a fun experience where sophomores and some juniors learn about social stigmas in a non-school, woodland environment. We decided to apply, thinking it would be a great time to hang out and not go to school for two days.
Camp Unity — which runs again this week — is a leadership program run by Palo Alto High School to enhance students’ understanding of themselves and others during a four-day period. The program’s mission is to influence students to branch out of their usual social groups to meet new people.
“At Camp Unity, I was able to make friends with people that I never talked to in school, and the activities that we participated in showed me how many of my classmates and close friends suffered from social problems in our society, and it made me think what I could do to help them in the future,” says sophomore Arian Chandra who attended the camp last semester.
There is no single word that can describe my experiences at Camp Unity. In three day’s time, I learned so much about global social problems and how they affect students everywhere, including at Paly. The engaging discussions and activities we participated in broadened our understanding of how to counter prejudice in communities anywhere and showed every student what it was like to be in another person’s shoes.
Camp Unity sophomore participant Zakir Ahmad says, “The three days time that I had spent at Camp Unity not only made me a better person but I was also able to change the way that I approach people who I don’t usually know. The camping was also a great and fun way to get away from school for a little bit.”
Aside from all the learning, I also had a very fun time with my friends as well as people I had never really talked to. The free time we had gave us the opportunity to hang out with people different from our usual friend groups. Along with that, the camp counselors sorted us into cabins with a diverse group of people, and over the course of three nights I was able to make new friends that I still talk to today. In fact, I think the cabin part was one of my favorite parts of this program because it gave me another chance to talk about life with the other students and the cabin counselor.
Our phones were taken away for the time at camp but the program is also held in the woods and the free time in between activities is a great way to explore the nature around you with people in your cabin. I feel like taking away our phones was a nice change that encouraged us to talk to each other. We were also offered the opportunity to go on a hike early in the morning, which gave students the chance to take a break from thinking too much and to just enjoy nature.
Camp Unity also felt like a community because each cabin contributed everyday by cleaning and setting up tables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I personally think that Camp Unity is a great way to learn about the different approaches to stopping discrimination, and the camp curriculum really shows students how they can reduce the impact of prejudice in their lives.
Although this semester’s Camp Unity sign ups are over, I would definitely recommend that students consider attending next year’s session of Camp Unity. You can sign up next year. If you have any questions about the camp, contact Dean Adam Paulson.
Again, I highly encourage that students consider attending this unique experience.