On a mission to provide fun and friendship, Troy Camp, USC’s oldest student-run philanthropy, is extending its reach to high school students this fall through a new mentorship program called TC Leads.
“We decided to create a full program for high school students because we realized a lot of what these kids need is a continuation of Troy Camp’s mentorship,” said Nidhi “Smuckers” Sheth, director of high school programming for Troy Camp.
Mentorship is a key ingredient for the Troy Camp organization, and each of the campers and counselors, who are nicknamed to complement their personalities, is a mentee or a mentor.
“The biggest thing we try for with Troy Camp is that the counselors keep in touch with their kids,” said Sheth, a junior majoring in health promotion and disease prevention studies at the Keck School of Medicine of USC who has been involved with Troy Camp since her freshman year. “They just take that extra effort to call the kids and create that ‘hey, if you ever need anything I am always here for you’ kind of bond.”
Troy Camp is best known for its annual summer camp that brings 180 local third-, fourth- and fifth-graders to Idyllwide Pines for a week of adventure. During the school year, camp counselors bring the campers back together each month for fun activities and provide after-school tutoring at local elementary schools.
Troy Camp counselors, numbering about 100, go through a thorough application and interview process. Of the 350 USC students who apply each year, just 60 to 70 are selected.
A new opportunity for counselors as well as former campers who attend local high schools, TC Leads features monthly workshops on personal development, tutoring and one-on-one mentoring.
“It’s very exciting that we now support kids all the way through to high school and beyond. The high schoolers also have a chance to return to camp as junior counselors [JCs], which is an amazing experience for everybody involved,” said Jason “Evoo” Hoffman, co-executive director of Troy Camp and a senior majoring in biomedical/electrical engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
At the kick-off event, a “music summit” held on Oct. 2, 25 students and 20 counselors shared their favorite songs and discussed why they were important to them.
“The best part of the evening was the tutoring afterwards,” Sheth said. “It was really beneficial to a lot of the students.”
Troy Camp student counselors are planning twice-a-month workshops on topics relevant to high school students, such as public speaking, college preparation, values and integrity. At each event, tutoring and one-on-one counselor time are offered.
Junior counselor Jahmal “Foxy Woxy” Taylor, a senior at Foshay Learning Center, has been involved with Troy Camp since he was in fifth grade and considers the organization his “second family.”
“I wouldn’t change anything about these eight splendid years with this program. I have learned so much from them, and they have made me a better human being as well as a better scholar,” Taylor said. “I used to think that because I was a kid who grew up in South Central, I would never be able to make it in life, but thanks to this experience, I know that I can.”
Moises “Moon Cheese” Dominguez, also a junior counselor and a junior at Bishop Mora Salesian High School, remembered riding a horse for the first time at Troy Camp.
“Camp is like a home to me. Everybody gets together from different schools and has fun,” he said. “I came back as a JC and, trust me, I did everything that they asked me to do out of love because I love this camp so much.”