“Sense of Self”: Students Learn Leadership and Friendship at Camp

On Friday, students show off their showmanship during the final performance of the 2022 Roots Summer Leadership Academy. The closing ceremony marked the 10th anniversary of the camp, which primarily serves children in the International District. (Esteban Candelaria/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Throughout a summer filled with basketball, miniature horses and ice cream, making new friends at Roots Summer Leadership Academy was 10-year-old Marlou Ann Obregon’s favorite activity.

Obregon was one of about 45 children from the international district of Albuquerque and surrounding areas who finished a three-week summer camp on Friday – the academy’s 10th year.

The coolest part of camp for her? Music, art, theater and dance – what she later recognized was about all the camp offered.

“I just learned a lot of things,” the Emerson Elementary School fifth grader told the Journal.

Making friends can be difficult, some students noted. But, now, optimistic about the skills they learned during the academy, they are excited to return to school.

“I’m having a really hard time making friends,” said Norah Cuppernell, who will soon be entering eighth grade. “I hope this helps me boost my confidence.”

The free camp, hosted by the New Mexico Black Leadership Council, is open to students ages 8-16 from all parts of the International District.

luminous dot logoThe mission of the camp is to teach leadership skills through social-emotional learning and to bring out the different strengths of students through an education infused with the arts.

Camp director Kim Obregon – Marlou Ann’s mother – said the camp attracts people from all walks of life, including homeless students and refugee communities.

“We target communities where stability is an issue at all levels,” she said. “Some cultural groups don’t have opportunities like this and we’re really trying to increase that accessibility.”

This year’s theme was the Zulu word “sawubona”, which Obregon says means “I see you seeing me”. For an art project, the students treated themselves as their own muses, painting words and designs on masks on display after their closing ceremony.

To cap off the camp, the students performed at the First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, 3701 Carlisle NE. They twirled tapestries, acted out bullying scenes with amicable resolutions, and sang their camp song, “I Believe in Me.”

“It’s what gives students this sense of identity, this commitment, this enthusiasm for all the learning opportunities,” said Barbara Petersen, a member of the Albuquerque Public Schools Board, who represents the International District. .

“It was amazing,” said 16-year-old Josaiah Thompson. “I met a lot of new people, I learned new things, art and dance styles.”

About Margaret L. Portillo

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