UCLA UniCamp programs offer positive role modeling


When 17-year-old Jacqueline Hernandez prepared to set off for UCLA’s UniCamp a few weeks ago, The Times wrote about her goal of completing four days of backpacking in the Wilderness Adventures in Leadership and Learning program.

Jackie had just graduated from Maywood Academy High School and was bubbling with anticipation of a week in the San Bernardino Mountains. When she learned that a knee injury would rule out her hiking plans, her positive spirit was undiminished and she quickly lined up another plan. Jackie returned to UniCamp as a participant in UniCorps, another of the five programs UniCamp offers to motivate and encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With its community service orientation, UniCorps has high school-age students who help UniCamp counselors maintain a safe campsite. The teens also serve as mentors to the younger campers during the Classic UniCamp program.


The philosophy of UniCorps, according to director Bradley Ostrander, is that enthusiasm for helping others is as important as meeting personal goals. He hopes that campers will follow the role of their counselors, who are themselves volunteers. Interaction with counselors, who are all UCLA students, is a key component of the UniCamp programs. The young adults encourage their teenage campers to set their sights on higher education and to strive to become community leaders.

Counselor Grace Lin has been volunteering for eight years. The UCLA public health graduate student says that the camp experience is all about motivation, productivity and positive role modeling.

Jackie’s camp experiences demonstrate the practice and outcome of positive role modeling. Her counselors taught and demonstrated leadership and communication skills. She then put those into practice with the younger campers at UniCorps. Leading a scavenger hunt, she emphasized the importance of community, cooperation and initiative.

Thanks to UniCamp, Jackie will be more prepared when she begins classes at Santa Monica College. She plans to complete her general education requirements over the next two years and then apply to UCLA.

Her other goal is to support Maywood, her home community, just a few miles south of Los Angeles. “It will be tough because there’s so much that I want to accomplish,” Jackie says. “But I want to be able to make a change.”

With $1.6 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign about 6,500 children will go to camp in Southern California this summer.

The Summer Camp Campaign is part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, which matches all donations at 50 cents on the dollar.

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