Camp Teaches Students About Interacting

It’s an unlikely place to talk about school violence.

Birds chirp quietly as a breeze rustles tall pine trees in the lush hillsides of Griffith Park. Inside rustic cabins that dot the green hills, far from the gritty halls and daily trials of high school, 61 students are learning how to get along.

“I think we should do this every month,” said Iskui Chldrian, a junior at Ulysses S. Grant High School in Van Nuys. “There are so many stupid fights in school because of race and the way people dress.”

On Wednesday, students from North Hollywood High School and Grant met at Camp Griffo as part of a program called Student-To-Student Interaction. The program offers one-day human relations workshops to elementary, middle school and high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.


Started in 1980 to address stereotypes and prejudice, the program’s focus has expanded to include discussions of school violence. Over the years, however, Student-To-Student has suffered funding cuts, and its workshops have been whittled from two-day overnight trips at three different campsites to a one-day workshop at Camp Griffo.

But the students--chosen by their schools for their leadership qualities--seemed to make the most of their limited time.

In one of the cabins, 10 students sat on chairs in a semicircle around adviser Chuck Coleman, who showed students how holding a picture one way made it look like a duck, while holding it another it was a rabbit.

“When you get a chance to look at something, look at it close,” Coleman said. “See if there’s another side.”

In small groups, students talked about communication, campus violence, cross-cultural understanding and personal empowerment--discussions that helped open some students’ eyes.

Maritza Martin del Campo, a junior at Grant, said her initial reaction to a student in the group who was dressed in baggy pants and a white T-shirt and wore his hair cropped extremely close to his head was to assume that he was a gang member.

“If I saw him on the street, I’d be intimidated,” she said. “But I learned how he felt. People need to take the time to know other people.”