Badgers in Boulder Creek


Agathe Fredette

Sean Adler gets it on with Clifford the Redwood

During February break, the Badger Alternative Breaks programs set off to fulfill their community service hours, including the service group that went to Boulder Creek, California. There, the group of 10 students became camp councilors for YMCA’s Camp Campbell, a three-day intensive experience for inner-city middle schoolers. The BAB group helped these students explore the redwood forest and surrounding environment.

“The kids were exposed to different activities, like hands-on studies led by a naturalist,” says Mikayla Turner, one of the BAB group leaders, “and this helped the kids better connect to the environment over the course of three days.”

As part of the sixth grader’s curriculum, every student in the bay area has the opportunity to go to this camp.

The group had to put in a lot of fundraising and team-building hours before they could set foot on an airplane. They met every week for a couple of hours to ensure they were able to work well together and get the job done.

While rewarding, the group collectively agrees that becoming camp councilors was challenging. Aggie Fredette, also a group leader, described the incredibly busy schedule they endured for the entire week as “exhausting.” Arriving earlier than planned, the group was able to have an extra cultural day before diving into intensive training at the campsite.

They prepared as much as possible for the journey ahead, which included non-stop supervision and facilitation with the campers all day, along with strict curfews, and added up to 87 hours in community service. Despite all this planning, the participants walked away from the experience with some new perspectives that can’t be scheduled into a syllabus.

There was no shortage of insight that anyone from the trip had gained. “A lot of these kids are in suburban areas, so there’s really not a lot for them to explore,” says Makayla Jones, a new participant. “I remember the first day we had class with our naturalist and these six graders saw running water for the first time. They all just thought it was so amazing.”

One of Turner’s favorite moments was helping the campers collect macroinvertebrates in a stream during a group activity. “Their eyes lit up, even though it was just a few tiny little bugs I found in the stream,” she said. “This is when it hit me that these moments are what was going to stick with the kids. I’m hoping that next time they see a stream, they think of all the creatures that call it home, including the macroinvertebrates that they saw that day, and recognize the importance of taking care of the environment.”

Jones also reflects on the journey. “What I took away from it was probably selflessness,” says Jones. “Putting these kids first was really important . . . they kind of made it hard to think for yourself. You’re just so focused on these kids and making sure they’re having the greatest experience.”

For Turner, perhaps her biggest revelation developed towards the end of their experience. “The high point for me was actually in one of the airports on the way home. That’s when I had several participants come up to me and talk about what they had experienced at the camp,” she says. “They were already missing and reflecting upon the experience and we had not even touched back in Vermont yet. As a leader of this group, I was moved that they were impacted so deeply already. It reminded me of how I felt on my past three experiences, and I was grateful that I could witness their growth in such a short amount of time.”