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Summer Camp Campaign: Job’s confident return

Job Manriquez looks you in the eye when he talks.

He speaks impeccable English with his hands folded politely in front of him, and his eyes are bright and warm.

Even as a 10-year-old, he is careful about his image. Every morning he carefully works his hair up into a spiky row down the middle of his head with hair gel, a style he says he likes because it makes him taller.

He wants to be strong, he says, so he can join the U.S. Army when he grows up. He wants to be cool like his father, a soldier of the Mexican Army.

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Nobody would ever recognize him from three years ago, when he first moved to Long Beach from Mexico with his mother and his fraternal twin sister, Michel (Job’s parents are recently divorced).

“When he first came to us, he was so quiet and shy,” said Jamesha Gloade, the site manager at Job’s after-school program run by the YMCA of Greater Long Beach. “Now he’s like a completely different person. He seems much more happy now.”

It was an overweek change.

Job headed to the YMCA Camp Oakes at Big Bear as a silent boy who had trouble making friends, but just a week later, came back outgoing and chatty, his mother, Esmeralda Marquez, said through a translator.

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Now he makes friends easily, Marquez said. In fact, she had more trouble than Job did when he went to camp.

“I missed him so much I cried for three days,” said Marquez, who works the overnight shift at an Indian bakery so she can take care of her children during the day.

But seeing the clear difference in her son made Marquez more eager to send him to summer camp again this year.

“He is really a very playful and talkative boy,” said Melissa Lopez, a YMCA volunteer who has known Job since he moved to Long Beach. “Camp helps to bring that out of him.”

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Through the generosity of Times readers, along with a match by the McCormick Foundation, more than $1.6 million was granted last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign.

The Summer Camp Campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund, supports programs that provide thousands of Southern California’s at-risk children ages 7-17 with enriching, educational and fun camp experiences.

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law and matched at 50 cents on the dollar. Donor information is not traded or published without permission. Donate online now at latimes.com/donate or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgement.

sophia.lee@latimes.com

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