My name is Izabella Lizarazo and I am a 17 year old from Weehawken, New Jersey (the town where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton) and I am a rising senior at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, New York. I took part in a civics/government/politics program known as Next Generation Politics for two years, and near the end of this year I received an email about a summer program for rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors interested in history, politics, and government. I was interested in the opportunity and decided that I would apply and see what the future held in store for me. Soon after, I received news that I was accepted in the program.
I was initially really hesitant about whether I should attend the camp. I had never left more for more than two weeks and I wasn’t sure I could go that long away from home without going insane. I didn’t know what exactly to expect from the camp and I feared the social life would be difficult for me here. I was nervous about the idea of dorm life. I had my doubts, but in the end I decided it would be worth it and it would be a new experience for me.
From these past two weeks, I can confidently say that this camp has been absolutely incredible and has exceeded all my expectations. We have had several field trips to historical sites including James Madison’s Montpelier, the U.S. Capitol, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the National Archives, Harpers Ferry National Park, Antietam National Battlefield, Mount Vernon, Oak Hill (James Monroe’s House), the White House, and Arlington National Cemetery. Each historical site holds so much significance to our history and to our present day. The tours were engaging and fascinating and I learned so much from them. From these sites, I not only learned a lot about history, but about our interpretation of history and how this affects who is remembered, how they are remembered, and what parts of history are forgotten or overlooked. Learning history through the site visits rather than from a textbook has enhanced my understanding of history and has greatened my interest in history.
Here on campus, our academic life keeps us thinking about history after our field trips. We have classes three times a week from 8:30-12:15 and then 1:30-3:30. Our classes are made up of 12-15 people. We have been studying American history through the Harvard Business School Case Method, a packet where we read through 13-20 pages to understand a certain historical dilemma and then discuss it. Along with these case studies, we prepare ourselves for each site visit when we have class, analyzing how each site visit connects to our chosen overarching theme of the week. We debrief our site visits after we experience them, and in doing so, we learn to make connections from our past to our present. Classes provide us with the opportunity to learn more, make connections, and analyze the importance of our history and how it affects us today.
Life outside of our academic life is wonderful and relaxing. In our free time, there are numerous activities available, including swimming at the pool, taking a walk around campus, going to the gym or the field and playing a game of volleyball/basketball/ping pong/you name it, hanging out with friends at the hangout spot known as “Roomies”, watching a movie, making or baking ice cream and other desserts, sharing ramen and other snacks, putting puzzles together, dance parties, trivia nights, and any other activity you can think of. In my dorm, Orchard, we spend a lot of time together, talking and having dorm parties. All the girls from in Orchard have made dorm life such an enjoyable experience for me. From day one, our dorm made sure to include everyone and help everyone feel welcomed. We have had dorm parties where we eat cookies and brownies while bonding together. We have had fun dance parties that brightened my day. We have movie nights where we all gather and put on face masks together. It’s so comforting to realize that something I was so nervous about turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the camp.
I know in the next few weeks there will be more to come and more to look forward to. I can’t wait for the memories I am going to make and the experiences I am going to have.