Anytown summer camp in Guilford County shaping future leaders with focus on inclusivity

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Summer camps can be some of those most memorable times in life. Kids create lifelong memories, and in some cases, lifelong friends and connections.

For more than 30 years, NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad’s residential camp called Anytown has been developing young people in Guilford County into leaders building a community based on inclusivity, respect, and understanding.

“For a lot of my teenaged years I was actually overseas and I just moved back to America and I felt very out of touch with what was going on in the world,” rising Grimsley High School senior Sachi Rego said. “I was here for the protests last summer but I felt like I couldn’t really understand what was going on completely. So I definitely wanted to be educated on the subject.”

“My sister originally participated in NCCJ and did certain activities with them and she did Anytown,” Macey Green said. “She said it was a really great experience. So I thought I would try it out. It sounded great.”

Everyone comes to Anytown for their own reasons. Student delegates from Guilford County spend a week at the Blowing Rock Conference Center living and interacting with people of different racial, religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I was a little skeptical at first. But once I got there, honestly, there were certain programs that were a little more serious. But also, I learned the most when I was just hanging out with friends and playing games and in the cabins at night,” Green said.

Macey just graduated from the North Carolina Leadership Academy in Kernersville. She says this was her first time talking about privilege. She said it never crossed her mind because she went to an all-white school. It was jarring but eye-opening.

“There’s so much division in the world, especially in the past year that’s made me realize that I need to do my part. So I went and I learned that my privilege can be used to help other people. And that was really impactful for me.”

For Sachi, it was a morning exercise they didn’t even know was happening.

“They just put us into groups and some people got to go eat breakfast first,” she shared. “Some people had to sit in silence. Some people couldn’t move anywhere but only with their groups and they didn’t have those liberties that other groups had. You could see the tension in the room. The counselors wouldn’t tell us anything and you could just see how people felt and all the emotions that were going on.”

“One of my favorite things about Anytown is the way that we open up space for communication so that students feel that they can share their concerns, thoughts and opinions and be respected, and then learn from one another as they do that,” María Perdomo said.

She attended Anytown as a student delegate in 2010. She’s now NCCJ’s assistant program director. Perdomo says every year is unique, but this year was especially different.

“I think a student that comes to Anytown is already welcoming that idea of engagement and wants to have those conversations, wants to at least listen and learn,” Perdomo said. “But I think we definitely saw an uptick in how people engaged in these conversations. they’re not shying away from them anymore.”

The goal is for them to take the lessons about difficult conversations home.

“Whether it’s school, churches, their own families, groups of friends. That’s really where you see the impact,” she said.

Macey says she will carry those lessons with her to UNC-Chapel Hill this fall.

“I really just want to take the idea that you can be friends with anyone and you can get to know anyone and just to be friendly to anyone who I normally wouldn’t talk to and just reach out to those people and make sure they feel comfortable at UNC as well as me,” Macey said.

One of the volunteers for this year’s Anytown was a student delegate more than 15 years ago. She moved away but stayed connected. Now she’s moving back to the Triad to be a part of NCCJ’s work and mission. Hear why in next week’s In Black and White.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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