Summer fun and brotherly bonding were the order of the day as Mentoring Partnership for Youth Development (MPYD) – a male student mentoring program at John Muir High School in Pasadena – escaped to the wilderness for the 10th Annual Cardinal Paint Summer Camp. Every August since 2004, MPYD students, mentors and staff have enjoyed four days of relaxation, recreation and inspiration at the beautiful Oakbridge Conference Center near Ramona, California. Along with sports, swimming, campfires and a nerve-testing ropes course the MPYD campers open up during discussions about life's challenges and opportunities
This year's MPYD camp contingent included 33 students and 15 supporting staff and alumni. Among them was MPYD co-founder Tecumseh Shackelford and MPYD board president Gene Campbell. For newly-appointed MPYD Executive Director Greg Middleton, camp was an excellent opportunity to become intimately acquainted with the successful organization that he has been entrusted to elevate to higher future success. Middleton enthused: "Meeting so many of our young men in a setting such as this was possibly the best way for me to get to know them, and for them to get to know me. OUTSTANDING!"
MPYD's 2014 camp theme, "I Dare You," inspired the students to push beyond their comfortable limits, to dream big and try new experiences. Presentations by select mentors illuminated the theme through such topics as, "I dare you to be the first in your family to acquire a college degree," "I dare you to disprove society's negative images of young men of color," and "I dare you to be your best as a positive member of society."
Daily "Real Men" workshops addressed character issues such as the contrast between a real man and a real loser. These dialogues led MPYD students to conclusions such as "A real man has integrity while a real loser lies, cheats and steals" and "A real man's vision of life involves serving others while a loser thinks only about himself." MPYD student Malik Pearson, 17, said, "The discussions brought out a lot of valuable information and good ideas about how to better ourselves toward becoming men."
Mentoring & Partnership for Youth Development, 1905 N. Lincoln Ave., E511, Pasadena, CA 91103 MPYD campers also enjoyed swimming, basketball and soccer tournaments, and a rope course that challenges the equilibrium and boosts the confidence of MPYD students each summer. "The rope course is scary, but I finished in just a few minutes this time, as opposed to 20 minutes last summer," boasted 17-year-old Skyler White.
Roasting hot dogs and S'mores over a campfire under starry night skies enabled the young men to relax and share information about themselves that the rest of the group may not have known. College-bound MPYD graduate Chris Ballew said, "Being at camp, and away from the social environment at school, it's easier to be yourself and to bond on a deeper level."
The bonding extended to a group of campers from the local area who shared the Oakbridge facilities with MPYD. Perceived cultural lines faded quickly as the youth struck up new friendships. "Our boys showed their true character in having fun with the kids from the other group," MPYD academic coordinator Saul Barajas observed. "The attitude with both groups was, 'We're all kids here to have fun!'"
The culmination of that inter-camp fun was an epic water balloon free-for-all that started spontaneously, according to MPYD senior Wesley Canada. "We had some balloons and were throwing them at each other. Then they saw how much fun we were having and somebody said, 'Can we have some?' So then everybody started splashing each other – it was crazy!" Canada remembers. The climax of MPYD's 10th annual summer camp was a talent show highlighted by the poignant comedy of MPYD senior Shaka Terry, riveting spoken word pieces by MPYD alumni Jeremy Rogers and Pierre Murrell, a Temptations lip synch led by MPYD founder Tecumseh Shackelford, and much more.
As they do every year, MPYD concluded camp with a Talking Stick ceremony. MPYD members took turns sharing the thoughts, emotions and goals inspired by the four day camp experience.
MPYD members agree that the 10th Annual Cardinal Paint Summer Camp was a spectacular event filled with unforgettable experiences that set an uplifting tone for an outstanding school year.