Friday, November 24, 2017

Camp CommUNITY Reflection - Hunter Avant

Hunter Avant- 2010
TCU Admissions Essay

Camp CommUNITY
an Essay by Hunter Avant

My name is Hunter Avant, and I am a heterosexual, Caucasian, Christian male. I come from a middle class family and am told by others that I an no bad to look at. During my life, bias and prejudice are not things that have been directed at me. I was raised by parents who detested what they called narrow-minded thinking, and we attend a diverse church where everyone is welcome and appreciated. Until the summer of 2010, I was uninformed and unaware of how much impact bigotry and bias can affect a person's life. At school, taunting and bullying were common because of race, religion, creed, national origin, body habitus, sexual preference, etc. While I was never part of the bullying process, I have come to realize that I was just as wrong for not speaking up. I never thought of how the people in those situations truly felt, how it might affect them in the long term, and how it hurt their hearts.

Last summer, my church youth group leader recommended that I attend Camp CommUNITY, a diversity awareness camp sponsored by the Multicultural Alliance. All that was required was an open heart and I guess she thought I was qualified. There was no possible way that I could have guessed that a life-changing experience lay ahead of me. As I boarded the camp bus, the first thing I noticed was the racial diversity of my fellow campers. I was not bothered by this, but it did cross my mind that there could  possibly be some taunting, as I saw so much of this behavior in school when diverse groups interacted. I recognized a couple of faces, as I had seen them around school, but the remainder were strangers to me. None of us know what to expect or what lay ahead for us when we arrived at Camp ComUNITY.

After unpacking our bags, we all walked to the main hall for the first activities, where we played various types of "getting to know each other" games. We all described certain things about ourselves and matched our similarities with other campers. This helped us all realize that we are all different, but yest the same in many ways. We stood in groups with our matched companions and got to know each other. The next day, we formed family groups in which we all divided into groups of 10 and learned about the lives and struggles of each person and how they endured racism or prejudice in the world. I will never forget my friend X (name omitted) telling our family group how he is constantly called a terrorist, just because he is Palestinian. He has been unable to truly express his heritage and religion because of the way he is treated at school. He shared information about his religion and described the deep traditions of his family heritage, as we all did. 

I never realized how easy it was being me, until I heard the hardships of my new camp family. I looked around to see that, in fact, I was a minority in this camp family, and at this moment, I understood that we were an extremely diverse group, we had developed a love, appreciation and understanding of one another. By sharing experiences and learning of the hardships of my friends throughout the week, I also realized what a serious problem bias and bigotry play in the role of world affairs. 

The five days I spent getting to know my camp brothers and sisters was noting less than amazing. I left with a deep sadness of having to say goodbye and end this journey. We all stay in touch, and we have had several reunions since. My experiences at Camp CommUNITY taught me to stand up against bullying, bias and bigotry, that it is not enough to just go about my business and ignore these things. I must speak up when I see or hear bigotry; that I must question and identify bias when I see it, be mindful of my own behaviors, promote and appeal to higher principles, set limits on what is said or done around me, seek help and help others to work against bigotry, and remain vigilant and persistent. Our world is more mobile and diverse than ever before in history. It is important that we open our minds and hearts to accept, appreciate, and even celebrate human diversity. I also believe that diversity training should be a part of our education system. I hope that when I become a teacher, I will be able to pass on the things I learned to my students. One thing I am certain of is that by changing my own responses, I will influence and encourage others to do the same, and one by one, we can change the world.



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