BOSTON (CBS) – Each month, WBZ Cares highlights a worthy non-profit organization and tells the story of what that organization does for the community.
This month, WBZ Cares focuses on Camp Harbor View, a summer camp on Boston’s Long Island that provides underserved youth in the city with unique experiences meant to build confidence and broaden horizons.
For Nia Johnson, 18, she can’t believe how far she’s come since first starting Camp Harbor View at age 11.
“Life changing. It’s just really amazing to see how all of us grew,” Johnson said.
She met her best friend Tyra Westbrook at camp and the two girls joined the leadership in training program at age 15. They became mentors to the younger campers.
“We want to make sure that they feel comfortable coming to us if they need to if they can’t go to the staff,” said Westbrook. “[But] we also do community service as a group. We do like resume work, sometimes, they help us with college programs. It’s not just a summer program. It’s a year-round program,” she said.
Westbrook ended up starting her own non-profit called “Keep Balance,” helping feed the hungry with the leftovers at camp.
“There was a lot of food going into the trash when people were finished with their food they would throw the rest of their food out. But a lot of kids weren’t eating the fruits, weren’t drinking the water. And so I was like maybe we shouldn’t be throwing away water bottles because I know there are some people in the summer who need water or will need fruit.”
The two teens are headed off to college in the fall. Johnson says she wants to be a teacher, based on her mentoring experience with kids too afraid to swim.
“Some of them might not swim for different reasons, so I would talk to them and I just realized, I really did enjoy seeing the kids have fun. That’s when I really knew that I really liked working with children,” Johnson said.
Both Johnson and Westbrook say they’ve learned life skills and important lessons through Camp Harbor View.
“Just be yourself, you’re going to make friends if you honestly just follow your heart, it really will make a difference and your experience really will change,” she said.
Westbrook says that it is not about being a leader but a mentor as well.
“It’s not about being in charge. You’re not just pulling someone through something, but showing them how to do it and knowing that there is never a time when you have completely learned everything you need to know. That’s the great thing about camp. That they teach you. You keep pushing, you keep learning, you keep trying new things, so you can be a better leader as you can lead yourself in the right direction.”