Equity Foundation provided a grant to Camp Odyssey to empower Oregon teens to become ambassadors for social justice, leadership, and civic engagement in their communities. Here’s how our grant helped 15 year old Sam:
As I was approaching the middle of the year and my 11th year of life, I found myself in a special ed class with kids who could easily kick the crap out of me — like every other year since first grade. But when I started the year I had no idea that it would change the rest of my life forever. Well, back to the middle of the 6th grade, I always had this feeling like school was more than just an obligation (it was hell). The way some kids would walk down the hallway like they ruled made me wonder why I was with people who are mean to people who might walk, talk or look slightly different, like me. My teacher told me in early November that if I worked really hard I could try to take the test to get out of the class around Christmas time.
As Christmas/Hanukah time approached I asked her when I could schedule a time to take the test. She looked deep into my eyes and told me that I would never get out of special ed, and that’s when depression struck my 5 foot, skinny body. Somehow I made it through to the middle of 8th grade, and almost made it to the end of middle school. But all the feelings were shoved deeper and deeper down into my body that decided to blossom into a non-sleeping, hurt, broken kid. I didn’t sleep for more than two hours a night for 4 months and started to improve during the summer. As my summer went on, my mother told me about a camp that needed more kids to come to camp. I said no, of course. The last thing I wanted to do was go to a summer camp with a whole bunch of preppy kids. But apparently that was the perfect thing to do for a kid who trusted no one at the time. So I ended up going and learned that it was more than just a summer camp, to say the least.
Camp Odyssey benefited me in so many ways but mostly it showed me how much I needed people in my life which helped me so much to know that I had support no matter what entering high school. Also I gained a male mentor that I will never forget, my man Mohammed (a.k.a. Momo). Staff like Momo helped me because he sees me as a normal person and not someone that’s trans or has physical differences! Camp Odyssey also changed me because I saw stuff in myself that was not right also. I changed the way I said, acted, And saw things in my head. I noticed that I became stronger as a person and started advocating for myself more when I started high school.