Meet Fresh Air Alum: Uriel Flores-Garcia
Uriel Flores-Garcia started his Fresh Air journey as a camper at Camp Tommy. While at Camp Tommy, he made new friends and memories that would last a lifetime. This summer, he has a new role – as one of the directors for the Counselors-in-Training program. We recently spoke to him about the impact that Fresh Air programs had on his life and his excitement for the new role.
How is this a full circle moment? Going from being a camper to one of the directors of the Counselors-in-Training program this summer?
“It is actually amazing. It’s great. It was unexpected. Through my years as a camper, I struggled with homesickness but the support I received from counselors and the camp administrators made me feel welcome. It inspired me to grow with The Fresh Air Fund and I want the campers to also feel the same thing – to feel support and have a positive experience. I want to pass on the support I had to the campers.”
What were you looking forward to this summer as a CIT Director?
“I was ready for it. I was looking forward to having an amazing time with CITs. I’m hoping that they learned life skills throughout the summer so that they can use them in their life. And also inspire their family members and friends – to be leaders out in the world. I wanted them to learn to support each other and to remember that here at camp we are a family where we want everyone to feel welcome.”
Going back to your camper days, what new experiences did you have because of The Fresh Air Fund?
“As a young kid, I struggled so much but I think an amazing memory was the opportunity to swim in a lake with my friends at The Fresh Air Fund. To live outside of New York City for almost a whole month was wonderful. I had been to Mexico but not anywhere else outside of New York City or anywhere in the United States. At camp, I was able to experience something different, be in nature and find peace. It is so quiet waking up in the morning and just seeing the spectacular views is calming. I still talk to my old friends from the CIT team and also friends from camp – they’re great. Now, some of them are counselors too! It’s just amazing seeing them again.”
What is your favorite memory from camp?
“My favorite memory is the camp cheers when you come to camp. The cheering makes you feel welcome and excited. Another memory I have is my first time at the waterfront. I was curious about the fish. I was like, what if the fish came after me when I was in the water- but a counselor inspired me to have courage. He told me he will be there, no matter what. He even joined me in the water and actually made me feel comfortable. Thanks to him, I was able to learn how to swim and eventually join the swim team at my college!”
What do you think your campers have learned from you?
“One thing they learned is being comfortable sharing their identity. That’s one big key point for us at Camp Mariah – everyone here is diverse. We want campers to feel welcome and even though we’re all different in some ways and may have different values, we can achieve the same goal.”
Has The Fresh Air Fund helped you work toward a specific goal?
“The Fresh Air Fund helped me so much with experiences that I gained from being a CIT. I was able to use those skills for my college classes and adjusting to college. We also offer tutoring at City Tech for younger kids where I used many of the skills I developed at camp. I learned to connect with children who are struggling as they enter high school or college. Because of camp, l knew how to understand their feelings, how to help them connect with their peers and discover their inner self. As for future goals – one day, I’m thinking of being a civil engineer and a professor of civil engineering.”
Why is Fresh Air camp so special to you?
“Camp is special to me because I get to see the children run and play outdoors. I get to see them enjoy something that I didn’t get to enjoy growing up until I went to Camp Tommy as a teen. I also get to see everyone care for each other. Here, we understand each other. At The Fresh Air Fund, we support each other and just like they say, a summer lasts a lifetime.”