Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Camp CommUNITY Reflection - Erika Barrera

Erika Barrera—2000    Counselor 2004
Finance Director for Representative Bruce Braley

It all started with a bracelet.  I had seen my older brother wear this “magical bracelet” for the past three years, and all I knew was I wanted my own.  You would think at the cynical age of 15 mysterious stories about a magical bracelet with multi-colored beads received at a week long summer leadership camp would be too far-fetched to grasp the attention of a teenager, but luckily sibling rivalry trumps logic.  So, in June of 2000, I finally received my magical bracelet along with much more than I could have ever expected.

From learning how to combat prejudice, racism, and stereotypes to forging life-long friendships with other delegates and counselors, Camp CommUNITY showed me not only the value of being a true leader but also the importance in loving your neighbor unconditionally.  When I think back to that week of living in a cabin, sharing a bathroom with 15 other girls, singing campfire songs, and sharing stories in my group section, I think the most telling line from the entire experience comes from an entry in my journal I read this week as I reflected back on those days from 10 years ago, “Everyone there accepted you for yourself and didn’t judge you; it was a great experience [...] for four days I didn’t have to do anything but be Erika.”

I know the impact Camp CommUNITY had on me was extremely powerful because my teachers would write about it in every college scholarship or letter of recommendation they wrote for me.  I specifically never took for granted these words from a letter of recommendation written by my ninth grade honors English teacher about my experience, “Today Erika serves as an Ambassador of Goodwill, actively working to make our world a place of peace and harmony wherever she goes.”  I will be eternally grateful to this teacher for encouraging me to attend Camp CommUNITY and for her continuing faith in me.

Although it has been 10 years since I was a delegate at Camp CommUNITY, the lessons I learned then remain close to my heart today. As I live in Washington, DC working on Capitol Hill fighting this very weekend to pass one of the most important domestic policy issues—healthcare—I can’t help but think about Camp CommUNITY.

The very principles I learned at this camp are what we are fighting for today—affording access for all Americans (to be insured), regardless of class, race, gender, or ethnicity.  No matter how many years pass, the lesson remains the same and is applicable to any and every issue—equality.

It started with a bracelet but ended with something much greater, and that’s the most magical part of it all.  I just hope hundreds, if not thousands, of other 15 and 16 year old teenagers across this nation will continue to have the opportunity to experience the lessons taught at Camp CommUNITY for years to come because it will forever change their lives.



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