The Louis August Jonas Foundation’s mission is to develop in promising young people from around the world a lifelong commitment to compassionate and responsible leadership for the betterment of their communities and the world. We do this at Camp by fostering an appreciation of both diversity and our common humanity, expanding intellectual horizons and heightening artistic sensibilities. Our mission is woven into all activities which develop leadership abilities and self-reliance. Camp offers and demonstrates a philosophy of living to serve society through the pursuit of humanitarian goals. LAJF and Camp Rising Sun want to highlight how Camp impacts the lives of our alumni. We are excited to feature Olivia (‘14, ‘15, ‘18) from Colorado. In her own words this how Camp has impacted her life thus far.
When I applied to Camp Rising Sun around five years ago, I was nervous that I wouldn’t make it just like every other 15-year-old who applies to spend a transformative summer in upstate NY does. What I could not have expected was the deep shift that would occur because of Camp, moving forward in years come. Camp Rising Sun took all the experiences I had previously and deconstructed them to build a perspective with greater intention, compassion, and confidence. The young girl, fearful to disappoint began instead upon a journey of self-reflection, enlightenment and better centered service.
I was one of the campers who loved Camp a little too much. I lived and breathed it for the couple years after my first two summers there, sending letters, reminiscing, and scrapbooking my memories away. I joined the Colorado Alumni Association after my first summer at Camp Rising Sun and fell into the roll as Colorado’s recruiter for the following three years. The Camp lessons, so powerful to me before, began manifesting in my actions as a recruiter. The humility, empathy, and confidence in my ability that had been strengthened at camp enabled me to lead like I never thought before was possible. Camp in this way for me, spread into my world beyond the location of Rhinebeck, New York.
Camp Rising Sun was the opportunity that pushed me beyond my original believed identity and capabilities. It showed me that creating compassionate communities centered in change was possible. Because of camp I’ve had the courage to pursue something beyond what was believed of me. I choose to study agriculture in hopes of working in urban sustainable and culturally appropriate agricultural development. Without the lessons I gained from the diverse perspectives at Camp, I never would have thought that something like agriculture was an option and one to be respected. The love, support and inspiration that surrounded me at Camp and beyond within the CRS community pushed me to look past simple trajectories in school and pursue something that could transform the mindsets of development moving forward.
In addition to my focus on sustainable agriculture, I am also studying visual arts in hopes of integrating creativity and art making into whatever form of development I work in. I believe that if we can build beyond binary forms of development and instead work cross disciplinary, we can create a more inclusive and aware platform of change. Art and agriculture may appear separate, but they are not. Instead principles of both can be upgraded by their connection to one another. The dynamic service learning that occurs at Camp pushed me to reflect and see beyond the simple pursuit of one form of service and instead inspired me to create what I believe can exist. It gave me the heart to love beyond what I knew was possible and it remains to be the place that teaches me most about the world, people, and myself.
Note: Olivia is currently a student at Rutgers University studying Agriculture & Food Systems and Visual Arts. She works part time teaching art to children, selling art pieces and prints, and as a freelance illustrator. If you are interested in getting in contact with her you can visit her website or email her. To see the art journal that she created at Camp in 2015 click here.