A group of Skid Row youngsters on an esteem-building trip and their affluent teen-age counselors received some unexpected inspiration at a summer camp this week when one camper saved another youth floundering in a swimming pool.
The episode unfolded Monday as teen-age counselors from Temple Emanuel synagogue of Beverly Hills gave 50 homeless or destitute children an emotional boost by leading nature hikes and arts and crafts classes at Camp Shalom, four miles from Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.
Soon after they trooped to the camp’s swimming pool, 12-year-old Jose Partida was standing next to the diving board when he noticed Brandon Cloud, 8, struggling in the water and starting to sink at the pool’s deep end.
Without hesitating, Jose jumped in and pulled Brandon to the surface. Jose towed the floundering boy to the edge of the pool and helped counselors hoist him out of the water.
Sputtering and shaking, Brandon--a second-grader who lives in a Main Street hotel in downtown Los Angeles--profusely thanked his rescuer. Then he bragged to everyone within earshot what Jose had done.
“I was drowning and he saved my life,” Brandon said. “I didn’t know how to swim. He saved me.”
A bashful hero, Jose explained that he had done what anyone would have done under the circumstances.
“He was splashing and choking,” Jose said. “His head was going under the water.”
Jose brightened when counselor Kane Lisker, 15, praised him and said that he would receive an award for his feat.
“It’s a great thing he did,” said another counselor, Michael Goldberg, also 15. “You don’t think that a kid that young would take the initiative. There were four counselors nearby, but Jose acted quicker than we did.”
The children were still talking about Jose’s exploits as they climbed out of the pool and headed for a crafts class where they were shown how to stamp their names on leather armbands.
Camp organizer Robin Segal said that the teen-age counselors paid $85 each to work without compensation at the three-day camp session. Besides leading hikes and games, the counselors operate a “camp store” providing free clothing and shoes to the deprived children.
The homeless youngsters were chosen for the camp by Para Los Ninos and the Harbor Interfaith Shelter, organizations that assist homeless and poor families.
The campers liked what they saw in the hills of Malibu.
“I like the mountains better than the city. There’s more space to play. They have trees. The air is clean. It’s perfect,” said Edgar Zapata, 11.
Michelle Glazov, a 17-year-old Beverly Hills High School senior who worked in a gift shop this summer to raise her $85, said the younger children’s eyes grow big when they ride along winding Mulholland Highway.
“Most of the children have never been in the mountains before,” Glazov said.
Guest speakers were scheduled to come to the camp today to give confidence-building talks on the importance of education. In the meantime, the rescue prompted Brandon to take on an impromptu motivational role of his own.
“Look, everybody,” he warned another group of campers about to take their turn in the pool. “Don’t go to the place that says 9 feet. It’s deep there. You could drown.”