From Camp to the Classroom: Fresh Air Alum Becky Chen’s Journey in Education
Becky Chen was just ten years old when she left her home in Queens for two weeks to attend The Fresh Air Fund’s Camp ABC. Despite understandably feeling nervous about being away from her family, she was excited for her new summer experience. Becky and her family never would have anticipated that when she boarded the bus to camp for the first time, she was embarking on an adventure that would change her life. Fast forward 12 years later, that adventure brought Becky to this past summer, when she worked for The Fund as a Seasonal Support Services Associate for the Community Outreach, Partnerships & Support Services (COSS) team. Becky has achieved quite a lot throughout those 12 years and continues to set tremendous goals for her future – and it all started one summer at camp!
For six years, Becky went to Camp ABC every summer. Swimming in the lake, playing sports, learning guitar and hiking wooded trails were all highlights. Summers at Camp ABC were both fun and invigorating, allowing Becky to step out of a classroom and into nature. “The ability to have a break from rigorous academics really helped me feel ready to take on a new school year,” she says. Between spending time with new friends and challenging herself with trying new outdoor activities like the ropes course and archery, Becky appreciated every moment spent at camp.
In 2020, Becky’s summers with The Fund may have looked a little different, but the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop her from engaging in new virtual opportunities. Even amidst the pandemic’s impact on programming, Becky stayed involved and continued to bond with other campers and counselors through The Fund’s “virtual camp” Fresh Air Everywhere. She also worked as an advisor for the Young Women’s Giving Circle (YWGC), allowing her to teach and learn more about philanthropy and community service.
“When COVID-19 hit, I kept thinking, ‘when am I going to go back to camp and when am I going to have the opportunity to work with The Fresh Air Fund again.’ Then, The Fresh Air Fund reached out about an opportunity to get involved in a virtual program using Zoom, and I knew I would love to be a part of that.”
Working with the COSS team this past summer has been especially rewarding for Becky. As the Seasonal Support Services Associate, she was responsible for helping families apply for Fresh Air programs. Being able to work on the other side of Fresh Air’s programs really sparked an interest in education for Becky and opened the door to the idea of a career in teaching or creating education policy.
“My experience with The Fresh Air Fund motivated me to continue working with children. I like working with young people and The Fresh Air Fund helped me discover that. I want to work in the education world in some capacity, whether that’s in the classroom or in policy.”
She recently graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and Education and is continuing her academic career at the University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student in Urban Education. Becky shared that her goal is to impact sustaining change in our education system.
“We must try to even the playing field because there’s so much inequity and inequalities that manifest in the education system right now. We know that when children walk into the classroom, they come from different backgrounds and therefore don’t really come to the table with the same privileges and guidance that their peers may have had. These are big issues that would be hard for one person to tackle, but I know I want to be a part of that change,” she said.
Becky’s time both as a camper and a staff member has positively shaped her personal and professional journey. Summers at Camp ABC allowed her to build her social skills and independence and working with the COSS team offered a unique perspective and opportunity to support children and families participating in The Fund’s summer programs.
“Through the Fresh Air Fund, I have been able to learn and hear stories from people from all over the city. Even though we were all from New York City, other campers shared experiences and perspectives that I treasure and still appreciate today. At camp, I went backpacking, hiked trails and made campfires. I worked with my peers, and we had so many opportunities to do community and relationship-building activities. I really learned how to be a part of a team. Now, I have grown into an advisor for the same programs I participated in. It was at camp that I was first given the confidence to be a leader.”
From encouraging and supporting young campers to attend sleepaway camp for the first time to teaching life skills such as collaboration, advocacy and public speaking through The Fund’s YWGC, Becky has had a profound impact on the Fresh Air community.
“I’m so happy to be able to pay it forward. It feels extra special and meaningful to have a personal connection to this work. I have such appreciation for the COSS team and staff for making it possible for children like me to go to camp.”
Interested in joining the Fresh Air team as a camp counselor or intern next summer? Check out “Join Our Team” for job postings and updates!