IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Student shares her culture at summer heritage camps
Summertime usually allows students to relax and have a little more "me" time, but CU-Boulder senior Trish Leung decided that some of her summer is better spent volunteering – not only her time, but also her culture.
For the past few years Leung has given up a weekend of her summer break to volunteer at a Colorado Heritage Camp. Every summer, heritage camps take place in Denver and Fraser for children and adolescents who have been adopted from a foreign country into American families.
Leung, who is majoring in psychology and Asian studies, often volunteers as a counselor at the Vietnamese Heritage Camp in early August. This year the camp was held Aug. 6-9. She also skips the annual CU versus Colorado State University football game over Labor Day weekend to volunteer at the Chinese Heritage Camp in Fraser.
"I feel like I can be a strong role model in helping them learn about their Asian heritage but also embrace their American background," said Leung. "I can relate to these kids because growing up as one of the few Asian kids in my neighborhood was not easy."
As a camp volunteer, Leung teams up with three other counselors who work with about 12 children ranging from preschool to high school. The children and adolescents who attend the Vietnamese Heritage Camp usually are either adopted from Vietnam or are brothers and sisters of Vietnamese adoptees who can learn from the experience as well.
"The adopted children see themselves as physically different from their family," said Leung. "In my role as a counselor, they can see someone who looks like them and who makes it a welcoming experience."
Each age group has different activities for the weekend, allowing them to bond and to learn about Vietnamese culture. Younger children and their counselors make crafts and sing songs while older children do more physical activities like zip-lining and canoeing.
"I started my first year of volunteering with the kindergarteners and last year I got almost the same group of kids with the first graders," said Leung. "This year I'm getting second graders so it's amazing to see my same group each year and how much they've grown."
Leung encourages other students to volunteer because it creates opportunities to meet other counselors who attend different schools around the state and to make possible lifetime friends.
People can volunteer in the camp that best describes their heritage including Korean, Latin American, Filipino, Indian and Nepalese, Russian, Eastern European and Central Asian.
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