Champs Program Helps Fifth-Graders

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Every year in Payson, we peer counselors at the high school put on a huge event for the local fifth-graders. This event, known as CHAMPS Camp, has gained such recognition as to become the highlight of the students’ fifth grade year.

Every child in an elementary school in Payson that is aware of the program looks forward to the day that they get to participate in it.

CHAMPS Camp is very important to the young students in the Payson area and has a largely unnoticed positive effect on our community as a whole.

For two days and one night, we peer counselors work to create a positive impact on our community’s youth. We become the teachers and friends of each and every student as we go through lessons and activities about stress management, handling peer pressure, feeling good about ourselves, being considerate to others, and healthy decision-making such as staying away from drugs and alcohol.

The overall goal of CHAMPS Camp is to reach Payson’s youth at this critical point in their lives to help manifest leadership skills and encourage healthy decision-making. The local teachers can vouch for the program and its impact on their students. After the camp is over, the children generally have more self-confidence and are determined to be active and positive leaders in their school and in our community.

Recently, with school funding being cut and the assimilation of our three elementary schools into two, we have seen our program deteriorate from the glory that it used to bear. Two years ago was the last year that we were able to hold the camp at Camp Tontozona just north of Payson.

This was the place that everyone looked forward to going because it was an adventure. Last year Camp Tontozona was not affordable with the monies that were available to the schools and we ended up holding the camps at the schools themselves.

The kids and the peer counselors along with some adults spent that night in the school. It was much different from the camp that the peer counselors were used to, but it was exciting nonetheless and the kids still enjoyed it. This year, the elementary school would prefer not having the overnight portion of the camp since we were not going to be in an outdoor type camp setting. Because this changes the dynamics of the program and would be the only possible way to continue, this, our friends, is the reason for this letter.

The main aspect of CHAMPS Camp that draws our youth is the aura of adventure surrounding it. The fact that they, along with their peers, get to spend a night together away from home is a big deal to them and is what makes them want to come and listen to what we have to say.

Just before bed is when we peer counselors tell the students our own stories of how drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure have an impact on our lives and how we all have overcome the problems we’ve faced. By this time, every little ear in the crowd is on us because over the course of the day we have earned their trust and have taken a solid position as their role models. They hear what we have to say and they empathize with us because even at their young age they have faced hardships just as we have.

The one night that we have with these kids is crucial in drawing in their attention, sending our message to their hearts, and helping them create stronger bonds with their peers.

That single night is critical to the success of the program and a major contributor to the amazing experience that the children look forward to every year.

Upon hearing that this aspect was to be removed from the camp, the peer counselors decided to lead the charge to raise money and hold CHAMPS Camps once again at Camp Tontozona. Tonto Creek Camp (Camp Tontozona) is willing to match funds collected dollar for dollar toward the cost of the camp.

We need to raise $4,300 to cover our cost for both CHAMPS Camps and have less than a month to do so. We are arranging to have the camps on Oct. 20 and 21 and Oct. 27 and 28.

Even though this is a daunting task, we are quite confident in the fact that our passion for this program and the local youth will drive us to the ends of the earth to acquire the funds necessary.

We are also very hopeful in the fact that the community of Payson and its constituents can see the value in our program and the positive effect it has on our youth.

We hope that you, as a productive member of our community, will help us in reaching our goal and making this experience as amazing and life-changing as possible for these wonderful kids. We thank you dearly for taking the time to read this letter and to consider our situation.

Donations may be made to P.U.S.D. “CHAMPS Camp,” c/o Judy Michel, Payson High School, P.O. Box 919, Payson, AZ 85547.

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