ZUNI, NM (June 7, 2021) — Summer is here, and it’s time for the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project 13th annual Summer Camp. This year’s eagerly anticipated, in-person camp kicks off Monday, June 14 for counselors and Monday, June 21 for youth campers, and it will conclude Friday, July 16.
Founded in 2009, Summer Camp was ZYEP’s first program — and it remains its flagship initiative, serving approximately 1,300 Zuni youth since its inception. The camp has become so popular, registrations for this year’s camp filled in a matter of hours.
Nineteen counselors ages 15-24 will converge at ZYEP headquarters on June 14 for two days of in-house training, followed by a four-day outdoor retreat in a culturally significant area. During their time together, the young people will take part in mental health promotion training, daily group sessions, and professional development workshops that enhance communication, leadership, team-building, and mentoring skills.
“An important part of Summer Camp is the mentoring experience that we offer the Zuni teens and young adults who serve as our counselors,” said Joe Claunch, ZYEP’s executive director. “Every year, our counselors tell us about their positive experiences and personal growth. These experiences have a real, lasting impact on their higher education and career goals, so we know Summer Camp is life-changing for our camp counselors as well as for our youth campers.”
Charis Boone, 19, served as a Summer Camp counselor in 2019. She agreed that the experience was life-changing.
“We really connected and got to know each other on a personal level,” she said. “I gained leadership, organization, and communication skills, and I learned about resilience.”
Sixty campers ages 7-12 will arrive at ZYEP on Monday, June 21. They will be assigned to “pods” of 10 campers with two to three counselors each. After the initial welcome, that first day will be devoted to connecting with counselors and the other campers in their pods, as well health screenings, establishing home-base classrooms, and assembling necessary gear for camp activities.
Then it will be time for Summer Camp learning and fun. For four weeks, campers will learn Zuni social dances, language, and art, including painting and fetish carving; they will hike to culturally significant sites; and they’ll be actively involved in traditional gardening as they learn about nutrition. Camp also will be filled with plenty of physical activity, indoor and outdoor games, self-care, and free time with mentors.
“Our Summer Camp integrates Zuni culture into every aspect of daily camp life,” Claunch said. “While they’re learning and playing, they’re also strengthening the connection they have to their traditions. We also have plenty to round out a more traditional camp curriculum, such as sports, outdoor games, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities.”
Impact assessments over the years reveal that campers experience increased enjoyment of physical activity, increased consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, improved peer and mentor relationships, and deeper connections to their Zuni culture. It’s not too late to help — Claunch said supporters are still welcome to donate to the Summer Camp Fund at https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/zyepsummercamp.
“We launched the Summer Camp Fund to ensure we meet the needs of this year’s campers and sustain the program into the future,” he explained. “Our goal is to raise $20,000 by the end of July.”
To learn more about the Zuni Youth Enrichment Project and its programs, and for information about making donations, partnering with ZYEP, and volunteering, call (505) 782-8000 or visit zyep.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest news and events, follow the nonprofit youth organization on Facebook (/zuniyouthenrichmentproject), Instagram (@zuniyouthenrichmentproject), and YouTube (/ZuniYouth).
Founded in 2009, the nonprofit Zuni Youth Enrichment Project is dedicated to promoting resilience among Zuni youth so they will grow into strong, healthy adults who are connected with Zuni traditions. ZYEP fulfills its mission by providing positive role models, enriching programs, and nurturing spaces that contribute to the healthy development of Zuni youth. ZYEP strives to provide every child with the encouragement and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.