Congratulations to all 2018-2019 George E. Jonas Scholarship Recipients!

As Campers for Life, LAJF is committed to assisting our alumni in their pursuit of higher education. One of the most important manifestations of this commitment is through the George E. Jonas (the founder of Camp Rising Sun) Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded every year to alumni who have been enriched by the Camp Rising Sun program and are using the values and knowledge they have acquired to help their communities in creative and exciting ways. We are thankful for the generosity of the Georges Lurcy Trust, CRS alumni, and friends which enables LAJF to offer these college scholarships to CRS alumni.

Below we are focusing on some of the undergraduate and graduate 2018 GEJ scholarship recipients.  We will post more about the rest of the GEJ scholarship recipients soon.Continue reading to find out how their days at Camp lead them to their current studies and how this is reflected in their goals that school and their lives in the future.


Caitin Navarrete (‘15)

Caitlin Navarrete (‘15) is attending Temple University to acquire a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theater. Caitlin wishes to create a better environment for all people in every field of work. She was not only a camper but a volunteer at Camp since attending.  We know that her time at Camp has shaped the direction her studies and life has gone. Caitlin believes that art is a important conduit for social and political commentary and hopes that every piece she performs changes an audience in some way. Caitlin believes with this change you can pave the way to a more sympathetic world for us all. Caitlin has the understanding that when a community comes together and acknowledges the lack of representation and injustices done to certain populations is when we can say we’re making progress. Using performance as a tool to expand empathy Caitlin hopes to effect change in the coming years. Caitlin is showing herself to be a servant leader with the desire to precipitate a new generation of future leaders. We couldn’t be prouder of all she hopes to accomplish.

Camp offered Caitlin a new lens through which to see the world. Her experience helped her to reconnect with her Latin heritage through deep connections with campers from Peru and Argentina. “All my life, I had shied away from promoting the fact that I’m Latina. Partially because I grew up in Florida being taught that being different and having curly hair was a target on my back. Then, I met the girls from Argentina and Peru that attended camp with me and everything changed. They started to teach me how to speak Spanish and sing lullabies and habaneras. These girls truly taught me to embrace my Latin roots and prove to myself there’s no such thing as “not Spanish enough” or “not ethnic enough.” If that is what culture you come from, it doesn’t matter how other people perceive you, it matters what you feel inside and identify with.”

Caitlin also began to incorporate her personal and political selves. She began to examine her privileges as well as the lack thereof. Leaving Camp, she felt a responsibility to educate others on the values she had just experienced. “I wanted to share all my experiences with the people around me and sought to educate those who were unwillingly ignorant, like I admittedly was before CRS. I found that my efforts were mostly in vain and not many, particularly authority figures, were open to the ideas I wanted to express. This just proved how indomitable my spirit became after realizing that the ideologies that camp taught me can not fade away with time. We have no doubt that Caitlin will use her experience to pay forward the valuable lessons she learned from her counselors.


Yena Purmasir - (‘08, ‘09, ‘11, ‘15, ‘16)

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Yena Purmasir - (‘08, ‘09, ’11, ’15, ‘16) has been a CRS/LAJF camper, staff member, volunteer, along with helping with NYC/NJ selection. She has been on the Program Committee as well as the Reunion Committee for this summer’s reunion that marked her ten year anniversary. Ms. Purmasir is a published author. Yena went to Swarthmore College for undergraduate. She wants to study religion with the aim to study the rich histories that shape daily life in South Asia, along with addressing how these cultures both contribute to and alleviate the prevalence of inequality and suffering within marginalized groups. Her hope is that her interests help address the inequalities in South Asia and minimize tension between India and Pakistan. She plans on continuing her involvement with LAJF and Swarthmore College as an alumna. Being deeply grateful she hope to continue to pay forward both my experiences as a camper and as a college student.

Yena remembers her first days at Camp and how integral they were to her sense of self.

“I vividly remember the night my name was called at Council. I would be the second first-year Sachem of the season and rather than feeling any pride in that, I was full of anxiety. I was afraid that I would fail, though if you had asked me then, I would not have been able to describe what that failure could look like. Mostly, I was worried that I would disappoint everyone, but especially the staff members who thought I deserved this role. Of course, things did not go the way I intended: it was one of the hottest days of the season, my Counselor of the Day vanished, and the kitchen staff had to push dinner back by an hour. But my Sachem Day was also another camper’s birthday. She told me later that it was one of her favorite days of the season, something I could not believe. It was not until the following week’s Council, when our Chef hugged me, that I realized I hadn’t failed some critical test. “You rolled with all the punches,” he said. “I know it wasn’t easy.” The rest of my first-year continued exactly like this. I was the lead writer for the July Production. I was one of the editors of the newspaper during the week of Visitor’s Weekend, arguably the busiest week of the season. As there were only 40 campers in 2008, I ended up being one of the Sachems of the Week, a role usually held for second years. In all these leadership roles, things fell apart and plans had to change, sometimes so immediately I felt like my head was spinning. I had to learn to effectively problem solve, but I also had to learn how to appreciate the uncertainty of all things. Understanding this seemingly simple lesson meant developing an unshakeable sense of self-confidence: that thought there would be unforeseeable challenges, that I could handle any potential fall-out. As a staff member for Camp and later for the Foundation, I talked to many prospective campers and their families. They often wanted to know why this program matters so much to me and why I was still involved years later. For me, Camp marked a turning point in my developing my self-image. Until then, I never thought of myself as a leader. Certainly, I did not know any leaders who looked like me or even felt like me. I was soft-spoken, strangely introspective, and curious about my position in the world. Being at Camp meant being thrust into roles I did not think I deserved. I no longer feel that way. Instead of thinking “How can I do this,” I find myself reaffirming what others clearly saw in me, years before I saw it in myself: “I can do this.” I learned that my leadership style, defined by a deep sense of responsibility and love, has a place in the world and that my choices, planned or improvised, are worth making.”

This year Yena starts at Harvard University for her graduate degree.  Her goals include joining the faculty of a public university, teaching cohorts of undergraduate students, and doing research that further explores the strange relationship between religiosity and modernity in South Asia. We are excited about the work that Yena has accomplished so far.  Yena shows herself as a servant leader that owns her goals, talents, and what she can accomplish. We are proud of her progress and all that she aims to accomplish.

Ruby Lainez (‘10, ‘11, ‘17, ‘18)

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Ruby Lainez (‘10, ‘11, ‘17, ‘18) will be attending her second year at SUNY Plattsburgh for the 2018-2019 academic year.  Ruby hopes to be a certified bilingual School Psychologist in either NYC or Massachusetts. Ruby aims to encourage kids to be leaders despite any current circumstances they may be in. She will make a difference in these students lives, whether it’s being a role model, or helping student a receive the appropriate services they need.

Camp helped Ruby discover her ability to make a difference.

“Camp Rising Sun was a life changing experience for me, as it was for many campers. For me, CRS was a way for me to discover how much of a difference one person can have in the world. I was always a timid student who blended in with the crowd. When I attended camp, I was forced to step way out of my comfort zone. I never held any leadership positions and hated being the center of attention, so when I was told I was Sachem of a hiking trip, it was a completely new experience for me. Not only did I learn how to be a leader, but I learned the true meaning of the role of a Sachem. I learned that being a leader does not mean being in charge, but it means to listen to the needs of others and serve them. During my hike, I quickly learned that everyone had different talents, abilities and experiences. When we all came together, we worked more effectively as a group. I continued to use my experience from camp when I held leadership positions later on. When I was the producer in a musical in High School, I was easily able to work with all leaders in crew, band, costuming etc. because I knew that they were all important to helping a show come together. In college, with all the positions I held, I decided that everyone in the club or group needed to have a voice. Camp helped me become more open to ideas from others and to become accepting with the fact that sometimes my ideas are not what the majority wanted. In my clubs, I never made a finalized decisions without talking to the group. When I became president of my sorority, I made sure that we had a fair balance between the board and all other sisters. I learned that everyone had different abilities and different ideas on how to help better the organization as a whole and it wasn’t my responsibility to make changes on my own. What I love most about School Psychology is the fact that I will be able to help students get the education they deserve based on their abilities. For example, all the students I work with will have many difficulties in academics. My job would be to find their strengths and use these strengths to help students succeed in school. Not only will I be able to help students, but I will have the opportunity to work with teachers and parents. I would help them make accommodations in their classrooms and home to help the student that is struggling. I will work with teachers and parents to develop a teaching technique or behavior plan that work for them. Camp has helped me realize that it takes more than just one person’s abilities, talents and experiences to make a difference”

Ruby wants to help Spanish speaking students who are new to this country. She wants to pass on all the values that she learned at camp and hopefully motivate students to make a difference in their communities. One of her goals is to be an advisory of a club like the H.E.A.R.T. club. It has been a long held vision of hers to help work with adults who have Alzheimer’s. She would like to volunteer at a center, similar to where she has worked at her campus.

Ruby was a camper and a staff member and we are excited to see her take the role of servant leader to heart. Her accomplishments and goals show her empathy, leadership, and hard work. LAJF and CRS is so proud of where Ruby is headed and all that she aims to accomplish.

We would like to thank everyone that applied this year and encourage everyone to apply next year. Read more about the Scholarship and how to apply here.