Anytown volunteers talk about impact of the summer camp on building community

In Black and White

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Race issues are not new. Many would argue that in the United States, issues with race go back to the days the nation was founded. Through one program in the Triad, young people have been learning how to lead conversations to address those issues.

NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad has been putting on Anytown for more than 30 years. It’s a residential summer camp focused on diversity and inclusion.

“One of the first things that we tell them when they arrive is that what we’re there to do is to create community,” Maria Perdomo said. “We want them to understand that through everything we do, whether it’s through a program engaging with the facilitators or they’re making bracelets with friends they just found.”

Maria Perdomo attended Anytown in 2010, then she came back as a volunteer. She’s now NCCJ’s assistant program director. In part one of this two-part series, we introduced you to Macey Green and Sachi Rego. They both attended this summer. Green is a rising freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill. Rego is a rising senior at Grimsley High School in Greensboro. You wouldn’t know by looking at her, but Erica Thompson went to Anytown in 2003.

“Every group of students is very different. Every generation is different,” she told us.

She connected with NCCJ after she had a bad experience as a student at Northwest Guilford High School.

“I was called an N-word as a freshman and the student was actually a friend but thought it was funny to say it … not knowing that’s not something you say at all,” she said. “I was given permission to leave and I decided to stay and my counselor felt that I was a good delegate to come to an experience like this to be able to really hopefully make a difference wherever I go.”

Her anger turned to compassion.

“So instead of me being very upset, it showed me that he didn’t know what he was doing to me. And that’s the case for a lot of people that don’t have the access to know fully what’s happening in every community.”

Thompson went off to college and then moved across the country.

“I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past 10 years and there I do homelessness activism because there is the largest amount of homeless people in America there. You can’t be there and not be affected by what’s happening.”

She called NCCJ for help with programming. Then she started volunteering with them from L.A. And then came the opportunity for her to volunteer at Anytown and she said she couldn’t pass it up. She even decided there’s no place like home.

“I’m going to move back to Greensboro. Doing the activism out there I found there’s nothing like NCCJ. There’s nothing like Anytown. You need community to be able to do this kind of work,” she said.

Work that this group that we spoke with, and the rest of the 40 student delegates this year, believes is as important today as it’s ever been.

“You know that at the end of the day even if you have a difficult conversation it’s more important to have community and to have understanding at the end of the day because if you can make smaller communities better, it grows and can make the world a better place,” Thompson said.

“That is very inspiring to see, for us to see a generation that is ready for change now and doesn’t want to wait until they’re adults. They want to be a part of it now,” Perdomo said.

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