Heading into this past summer, Catherine Buffie, who is now a sophomore at Redwood Valley High School, admitted she was dealing with some struggles.

“I had no idea who I was, what I wanted to do or who I even wanted to become,” Buffie explained.

Then she learned about an opportunity that might just help provide some direction. Called Camp Rising Sun, the annual summer leadership program held in upstate New York, is offered to young men and women from around the world. Buffie was nominated to attend. 

It was Buffie’s Redwood Valley Middle School teacher Megan Argetsinger who nominated her for the camp.

“I’ve always loved interacting with people from different cultures, so I went hoping I would figure my life out a little more and also to meet so many unique individuals from so many different countries,” explained Buffie.

The days were always packed, Buffie added, but it also depended on leaders of the day. A leader could change the day to some extent, but those who were involved in the camp still did projects, such as fixing things at camp, adding things and painting.

According to Buffie, “the campers picked projects, so we fixed and added what we wanted and what we thought would enhance the camp experience.”

Participants also had the opportunity to teach the other campers about their country and culture, as well as things that they enjoyed doing. Some taught dance, others taught sports and many did informational presentations on things such as racism, veganism, abuse of different types and so on.

Of course, there was also some free time for campers to do what they wanted – sleep, play sports, talk, etc. Buffie stayed at the camp for a month.

There we 60 girls total, with some from Palestine, Germany, Peru, New York, New Jersey, Greenland, Sweden, Finland, Zambia, South Africa, Ecuador, France and so on.

“I tried to learn new dances, one was an Indian dance while the other was more of a hip hop. I learned some tutting (hand movements) and how to better reflect on myself,” Buffie added. “I got to experience eating an ant, having 60 friends turn into 60 sisters, and I experienced having a set daily routine filled with productivity and excitement.”

Buffie learned more about world problems in different countries, learned how to take charge and solve a problem and how to be comfortable with who she is and she is becoming.

“I learned how to love and care for 60 people, and, although I can’t do this camp justice with only words, I learned how to find myself when I’m lost,” she added.

According to Buffie, she can go back as what they call a “second year.” She would definitely go back, adding it has been the best month of her life.

Buffie would recommend this to others. For her, it was a life-changing experience, and she is so grateful she had the chance to be involved in it.

“I love every one of those girls, and they mean the world to me. The bonds I created are unbreakable and my love for them is unimaginable,” explained Buffie.

The camp is operated by the Louis August Foundation.

Learn more at www.lajf.org.