November 05, 2019 Category: Stories

Emikhe’s Journey: From Shy Camper to Confident Leader Who Inspires Young Girls

Emikhe, who studied business administration as an undergraduate in college, recently received a master’s degree in higher education from Buffalo State College – and has a new job advising graduate students.

“I realized at Camp ABC it’s so important to educate youth,” she says. “I wanted to continue helping and advising young people. The Fresh Air Fund helped me figure out what I wanted to do in the future and also what my strengths and weaknesses are. All of my roles at camp over the years definitely helped me grow as I learned what I was good at.”

It’s what she hopes Camp Anita Bliss Coler, known as Camp ABC, can help do for every camper.

“It’s a place to grow,” said Emikhe. “At camp, you have to learn to put yourself out there to meet new people and learn new things, and then adapt yourself to the situations you experience.”

As a camper, counselor, and now assistant director, 23-year-old Bronx native Emikhe has seen firsthand how Camp ABC empowers girls and young women with confidence and builds a sense of community and sisterhood.

Emikhe (third from left) with The Fund’s Executive Director Fatima Shama (fifth from left) and members of the Camp ABC leadership team, six of whom are Fresh Air alumni

When Emikhe heard about The Fresh Air Fund’s summer camps, she asked her mom to sign her up. She found the right fit at Camp ABC with its blend of classes, outdoor activities, a focus on leadership development and, most of all, she says, community.

“I loved the people,” she says, “so I kept coming back.”

At 13, Emikhe was invited to participate in Camp ABC’s Leaders-in-Training program, and at 15, she applied to become a Counselor-in-Training. At 17, she was a general counselor, and after that, she became a leadership specialist, teaching girls who had once been young campers like her about community service and leadership.

This summer as Camp ABC’s assistant director, she managed logistics and a master schedule for every camper’s day, taking what the campers were interested in and translating that into activities that could broaden girls’ life experiences. Finding those connections for homesick campers was especially fulfilling for Emikhe.

Emikhe with Fresh Air campers at Camp ABC

“The homesick campers are my favorite ones,” Emikhe says. “I tell them about all the activities they’re going to do and what’s going to happen next and how they can grow from it. I see a lot of girls grow and mature. The first day of a camp session they are not familiar with their surroundings, and with each day at camp, they gain more confidence. As they start to learn where everything is and adjust to the camp routines, you see a change in their body language.”

Emikhe says Camp ABC had the same effect on her.

“Before I came, I didn’t know anything about Camp ABC. I was very shy and always hiding,” Emikhe said. “Now I want to help other young people with their insecurities. I want my knowledge and experience to help the younger campers. At camp, we form bonds and develop a sisterhood. It prepares you for your future.”

Help more girls from NYC’s underserved communities experience Camp ABC, build life-long relationships and prepare for their future. Make a donation today.