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‘Catalina camp’ girls create memories for a lifetime

‘Catalina Camp’ girls sit quietly looking out at the ocean during a hike at the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program. This scene played out to be one of the most memorable parts of their journey.

Article by Elean Gersack photo courtesy of Paige Taylor

In early June, a local group of fifth grade girls took a journey to explore new sights, grow leaps and bounds, and reach beyond comfort zones. For one week, the crew took camp at the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (CELP) on Catalina Island, California.

The group included twelve Buffalo Ridge Elementary School fifth grade girlfriends and many of their moms. Trip organizer, Paige Taylor, learned about the program several years ago when she visited her brother while he was the camp’s director. “I thought it would be such an amazing experience for the girls, especially before they head-off into middle school,” said Taylor.

The camp focuses on marine ecosystems (including plants, animals, and fish) as well as team building activities such as kayaking, high rope courses, hiking, and day & night snorkeling.

One of the girls, Kristen Wylie, learned a lot about plants while on the trip and even helped save those native to the island. She learned that non-native plants brought to the island over the years are now drinking too much water and causing native plants to struggle. “We used shovels to dig up the non-native plants,” said Wylie.

“The camp not only teaches you about marine life and the environment, but it challenges you to step out of your comfort zone,” said Taylor. One such activity was the high ropes course. “The girls were hooked up to a harness and were challenged to climb 30 to 40 feet up a telephone pole, stand on top and then jump off. It was so great to see the girls have the confidence to do that!” Taylor recalled enthusiastically.

Wylie’s favorite part of the trip was going night snorkeling. “Even though the water was freezing, I saw a lot of bioluminescents,” she recalls. When slightly disturbed, these creatures will glow at night. “We turned off our flashlights and kicked our flippers. It looked like glitter in the sea,” she added.

One of the most memorable experiences of the trip was during a hike looking over the ocean. “The counselors had all of us sit quietly for 10 to 15 minutes just to be in the moment. It made me realize how often we rush through life not taking the time to enjoy really precious moments. Seeing the girls sitting by themselves, yet still as a group, was bittersweet; it might be one of the last times they are all together like that,” said Taylor.

As the girls move into the next phase of life, they will always have a special bond. “Ms. Paige always tells us that no matter what, we can always trust each other since we are such a good group of friends,” said Wylie. 



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