By Teri Vance
During a break at the Nevada Statewide Youth Summer Camp, Tyler Murray of Silver Springs tossed a football around a small circle of campers.
While he said he enjoyed the activities, he mostly appreciated the sense of connection he’s felt and the lessons learned about being vulnerable.
“It’s been a good getting to know each other in our groups and learn their backstories,” said Murray, 17. “If you haven’t opened up in the past, you learn how to open up and trust other people.”
His schoolmate Parish Phillips, 16, agreed.
“You get to meet people who have a similar story,” he said. “It’s comforting.”
Nearly 80 youth from across the state participated in the three-day camp — Friday through Sunday — at the Nevada 4-H Camp at Lake Tahoe. The camp was paid for by settlement funds through the Nevada Attorney General’s Office.
“The really wonderful thing about the camp is we have kids from all different communities in Nevada,” said Hannah McDonald, director of Partnership Carson City. “We have children of all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. We have so many personality types, which is beautiful. It’s been really great to watch how well they’re coming together.”
The camp was open to ages 12-17 and was promoted through the partnership coalitions throughout the state. Participants attended workshops on topics including mental health, substance abuse and sex education. On their breaks, they made friendship bracelets, tie-dyed T-shirts and waded in the lake.
“I really wanted that old-fashioned camp feel with arts and crafts,” said Samantha Szoyka, the youth program coordinator for Partnership Carson City, who planned the camp. “They are learning team-building and leadership skills while learning about overall wellness.”
While Murray has attended two other camps at the same spot through the Stand Tall club at Silver Stage High School, it was the first visit to the northern part of the state for Merzan Thomas, 12, of Las Vegas. It was also her first trip — on an unseasonably cool summer day — to Lake Tahoe.
She had one word to describe the experience.
“It’s cold,” she said. “The lake is cold.”
Hayden Schaut, 15, from Pahrump, planned to take a piece of the camp home with her.
“I like how we have speakers come and talk to us about marijuana and stuff. We’re actually learning and getting stuff out of this we can take back to our communities,” she said. “I want to do this every year, that wold be cool.”
Through the process, McDonald said, the campers developed an affinity for their environment, finding a kinship to the outdoors, nature and each other.
“At some point today, all of a sudden, there were no more phones,” she said. “That in itself makes it all worth it.”