The Female Pioneers of CRS 1989

Every pioneer has a life story and a life lesson. In 1989, 40 young women, aged 13-16, stepped onto Clinton’s campus and unknowingly forever altered the course of CRS and their own lives.  They were courageous settlers of a new home, a new spirit, and new opportunities that reached hundreds of young women in the years following. Where are they now? Thirty years after CRS first started the girls’ programming, 6 of those pioneers shared a glimpse of their Camp experience, post-Camp life, and of the lessons they carry with them! Each pioneer from 1989 was interviewed by me, Monica Janvier, one of the over 1,600 young women who have followed in their footsteps! 

Meet Cindy Abramson

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Cindy grew up in a South Brooklyn apartment building with her parents, older brother, and grandparents- a family of proud Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews. 

Cindy’s grandmother, who is currently 98-years-old, is one of her role models. Her grandmother grew up on a Polish farm and left her family at the age of 15 to earn money in NYC for them. Despite planning to return to Poland, World War II broke out and she devastatingly lost her family. “From a Polish farm to Brooklyn high-rise”, as Cindy described, her grandmother settled in NYC and married Cindy’s grandpa. Cindy continues to look up to her grandmother’s strength and courage. Similar to the unexpected paths of her grandmother’s life, Cindy has driven an untraditional path full of detours, turns, and new destinations.

CRS Memories

Cindy stepped foot on Clinton at the age of 15. 

“I always felt like I didn’t have the right clothes, I didn’t look like the other girls, or I was too nerdy...But then I went to Camp Rising Sun, and it was just... incredible! Everybody was interested in meeting and learning about everybody else…It was just amazing to feel like I didn’t have to fit in to feel accepted.” 

One of Cindy’s favorite memories is of a Camp tradition when a camper has to sing to everyone upon receiving a package or 3 letters from the mail. She recalls her own experience: 

 “I remember I was sooo terrified. Oh my goodness! And I remember I sang a Meatloaf song.” 

Now, Cindy feels comfortable giving work presentations in front of hundreds of people. 

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Driving a Path of Detours

Before speaking with Cindy, I had always imagined that the ideal path in life is to follow a straight road from education to one consecutive career path that follows a singular direction. However, Cindy has driven a path of several detours, turns, and destinations. When Cindy drives on this journey, her destination is a passion or interest! 

At the age of 20, Cindy left college to pursue a career in the Entertainment Industry. This transition wasn’t a dead end, but a fulfillment of a passion. She achieved an internship at 20th Century Fox then worked there as an employee, along with several other jobs in entertainment over the next decade. 

When Cindy was 26, she took a break as her passion flew her to Australia where she studied hula hooping for a few months. 

Sometime after this adventure, her passion for Creative Writing drove her to study this art at the New School. She soon achieved her Bachelor’s Degree when she was 32-years-old. 

Once again, Cindy re-calculated her destination set in the direction of another interest- Law. She went on to study law and began her career as a Litigation Associate at a large firm in NYC. Six years later, she achieved the position of Assistant General Counsel at the U.S. Copyright Office. Currently, she now works as Associate Counsel at WNET, New York Public Media. 

Cindy speaks to those contemplating on choosing the ideal career path: 

Try not to focus on the idea that what you pick will be what you do for the rest of your life. Try not to put that stress or pressure on any decision you make. You don’t have to have a straight line. My line is not just up and down, but all over the place!

The Secret to Driving a Nonlinear Path

It seems that the secret to living on such an adventurous path with various destinations is not accepting age deadlines.

Cindy believes that there is often a constant pressure for us to achieve things by a certain age. In contrast, she manages to live without age deadlines.

“You get more out of life when you stop and take the opportunity to explore different areas of interest and not get caught up in not achieving by a certain age in your life or a certain time.”

Cindy took the opportunity to explore the legal field which provided her the chance to potentially save a person’s life. While advocating for one of her passions, health/HIV/AIDS-related issues and rights, Cindy represented a 20-year-old HIV positive Ghanian man in an asylum case. He applied to get asylum in the United States due to Ghanian laws’ discrimination of HIV positive people. Cindy represented him in an interview with U.S.immigration as he was granted asylum and gratefully obtained his Green Card!

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Years later, Cindy’s detour led her to receiving an award from the American Intellectual Property Law Association for her dedication to copyright law during her role as Assistant General Counsel at the U.S. Copyright Office.

More recently, Cindy has taken another turn and returned to LAJF! She was asked to join the Louis August Jonas Foundation board.

I’m excited to engage with alumni and to help ensure a long-lasting future for the Camp so that future generations can have the amazing experiences I had and [I’m excited] to help guide a path for future leaders of compassion to better the world we all inhabit together.