When a privileged student goes to Camp Everytown..
I’m not a genius. I don’t have super powers. What’s so special about me?
I grew up a privileged child. And that’s not fair. What distinguishes me is not what I have done, but what I have been given. I feel that I owe my accomplishments to the many that haven’t had the kind of privilege that I have.
My parents both came from small, tight-knit Kansas towns. Neither parent enjoyed a childhood of luxury. They studied hard to climb the socioeconomic ladder. They became doctors and they moved to California.
Palo Alto is a beautiful, idyllic place to be a child. As a child here, you’re offered Math Academy, children’s theatre, after school youth programming, and tutoring of every kind. In short, it’s the perfect place to grow up.
This is the world into which I was born. Growing up here, it was not uncommon to see Steve Jobs at my sister’s softball games. I thought nothing of it. As a young person, you don’t realize the overwhelming peculiarity of the situation you’re in. It does not occur to you that other people have different experiences, perhaps less happy ones. It does not occur to you to compare what you have with what others have at all.
(Camp Everytown delegates)
Camp Everytown really solidified for me the idea that I was much more fortunate than others. We did one particular activity that drove this point home. I ended up physically separated from everyone else — the extreme point on a spectrum of privilege — and it was a solemn and hard-hitting moment for me.
It led me to completely acknowledge that to grow up in a place like Palo Alto is very rare.
My opportunities make me incredibly lucky. The idea that “we are privileged because we are special” seems to prevail here, but I know that the opposite is true. We are special because we are privileged.
I also came to accept that I am the problem. I’m no more responsible for their misfortune than my own privilege, but while I have opportunity, countless other children of my generation live without. For me, this understanding comes with a sense of responsibility. I must ensure that what they have been robbed of is not squandered on me.
Obviously, the experience I gained at Camp Everytown has driven me to live my life in closer observance of my privilege. I think that the value of a place like Everytown, where no topic is off-limits and where people feel safe, is that everyone can stand to learn and gain from it. In fact, I would say that the people who gain the most from it are precisely those like me, who come from a world where opportunities abound. But we cannot have this experience if it is only us at Everytown; it is crucial to have a diverse array of attendees. It is crucial to maintain the diversity that inspires students to acknowledge their differences, and then leave them behind to converge over their common humanity.
Camp Everytown/Anytown has been serving Silicon Valley schools since 1996, and more than 10,000 students have benefited from it. Support our programs today to ensure even more students will get to experience our social-emotional learning exercises that change perspectives and lives.