LA Times

[LA Times] Hiking toward UCLA

Last summer at UCLA’s UniCamp, Jacqueline Hernandez didn’t think she’d be able to complete one of the main activities, a 12-mile hike. She gave it a try anyway, and succeeded. “We felt so accomplished when we got back to the campsite,” Jackie recalls.

This year at camp, the 17-year-old will undertake a 26-mile hike. “Right now I’m scared because I’m not in shape,” she says. “But if I set my mind to it I can accomplish it … I’m determined.”

She developed her determined mind-set last year at UniCamp, the official student charity organization for UCLA. The camp offers typical activities such as hiking, archery, swimming and stargazing, but its main focus is helping campers — most from low-income families — to focus on setting goals for the future.

The camp counselors, who are all UCLA students, “made us think about the best we can be,” says Jackie, who recently graduated from Maywood Academy High School. After attending the camp, Jackie entered her senior year with a more confident attitude and began to earn better grades. “Being at camp made me change the way I learn,” she says.

This summer, Jackie will travel to the San Bernardino Mountains to participate in UCLA’s Wilderness Adventures in Leadership and Learning camp. The program consists of a 26-mile hike over four days, with campers carrying 50-pound backpacks, Jackie says. According to its website, the program aims to empower campers to “dream big” and “conquer insurmountable goals.”

Jackie knows the hike will be strenuous. But she looks forward to spending time with friends in a peaceful setting, far from the stress of home.

After camp, she’ll search for a job, possibly as a fast-food server. When she turns 18 in November, she plans to leave the home she shares with her mother and stepfather to move closer to Santa Monica College. She’d like to enroll in the community college and eventually transfer to UCLA, where she wants to play basketball and earn a degree in kinesiology.

She’d also like to work as a counselor at UniCamp, contributing to the program that inspired her to do well in school and aim for UCLA. “When I went to camp I forgot about all the problems here at home,” she says. “I got a chance to relax and think about what I really want to accomplish.”

With $1.6 million raised last year by the Los Angeles Times Summer Camp Campaign, approximately 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.

Donations are tax-deductible as permitted by law. Addresses will not be released or published. Mail donations using the attached form (do not send cash), donate by phone at (800) 518-3975 or donate online now at latimes.com/donate.

daina.solomon@latimes.com

Read on latimes.com at latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-0709-camp-20100710,0,1458957.story

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