Camp Junior: A Place We Can Be Ourselves
Hundreds of children living in the Bronx can’t wait to return to a very special place – Camp Junior. Camp Junior is on 40 acres in Harriman State Park in Orange County, N.Y. Surrounded by nature with the lake visible from almost everywhere at camp, it is easy to forget that New York City is just an hour’s bus ride away.
At Camp Junior 8- to- 15-year-old children from the Bronx have a chance to experience the joys of summer camp. Campers and counselors form a community – creating a safe space for kids to try new things and step outside of their comfort zone.
Camp Junior is a partnership between The Fund and New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, the Bronx Borough President’s Office and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. It was founded in 2019 in memory of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, a victim of gang violence. In addition to summer camp, youth participate in year-round programs, which provide resources and a support system for campers and their families.
“After Junior’s death, there was an outcry for youth in the Bronx to have a place to feel safe and be kids. We knew Junior’s legacy would be safe with us” shared Fresh Air alum and Camp Junior Director Kayla Paulino.
A Place We Can Be Ourselves
“Camp is where I’ve learned to push myself; I learned to kayak and play chess. I surprised myself by what I can do” said Layla, 13. She describes Camp Junior as one big family and feels like it is a home away from home. “It’s a safe place where we can all talk to each other and express our feelings without being judged. We can be ourselves.”
Nathaniel, 11, may sum it up best: “Swimming has to be my favorite activity, archery is fun once you practice, and I loved watching the dance off in the dining hall – but It’s hard to pick a favorite memory because I have so many!”