Camp Choice

The purpose of Camp Choice is to empower youth to create positive change in themselves and their communities by realizing the power of choice, responsibility, and their effectiveness as positive leaders.

Making a Difference

Every summer since 1993, kids from different housing communities around the San Francisco area have set out on a 3-hour bus ride to a ranch in Clearlake Oaks, California. High Valley Ranch is maintained by a trained staff and is specifically designed to facilitate positive change in individuals of all ages and backgrounds; it provides a refuge for the kid’s safety and peace of mind. This space and the volunteer staff make it possible for the kids to let down their guards and just be kids.


During the week the kids have the opportunity to work together as a community in every exercise and event. Throughout the week there are 5 keys to community that are emphasized: leadership, respect, teamwork, responsibility, and courage. With the participants being from different neighborhoods, this is vital to the program’s mission and continued success. As the kids learn to work together in order to accomplish goals, they begin to form a bond that lasts even after they leave camp – a bond that can lead to lasting, positive friendships and support back home where it really counts.


The exercises and lectures are designed around ropes courses that have been utilized in company training seminars, personal development classes, and leadership. They get a chance to work on focus, trust, and commitment to go beyond what they believe they can do and in turn, create a lasting memory of success in their lives. The week is complete with many physical and mental challenges accompanied by creative outlets such as art projects and even a talent show where they can perform songs, dances, and even skits they have created with their new found friends and fellow campers.


By the end of the week the kids have learned many new things about themselves and others. With an understanding of what responsible choices and teamwork can do in their lives they expand their vision of possibility. And of course they have fun doing it! Almost every one of the participants desire to come back again and again. In fact, some of the campers who participated in the very first Camp Choice have now begun to return as volunteer staff, becoming an essential part of the program’s success in recent years. It’s results like these that make Camp Choice a committed source of community support and positive outreach.

I have learned to respect myself and the people around me. I have used leadership by avoiding negativity when it comes around, doing what is right even when I am not being asked, and helping out when I see that help is needed. By using courage it has made me feel good inside, and has made me feel like a stronger person. I feel like courage leads to a decision being made that will benefit you in the long run.

How I am using the camp choice philosophy to better myself is by applying what I have learned at camp to my life. I think about all the stuff we learn at camp like avoiding gangs and violence, saying no to peer pressure, avoiding being a statistic, and more. Avoiding being a statistic is one I think about the most. I do not want to be a statistic, so I try my best to make decisions that will not affect my life negatively in the long run. If I do make a mistake, I learn from it and try my best not to make the same mistake again. I also share my experience and what I have learned from camp with others so they can learn to make better decisions in their lives.

Iesha S McKinney

Age 17