He ended up becoming the Summer Camp Director and still stays involved today.
By John Grossi
Adrian Barreras joined Camp Fire Long Beach as a freshman in high school at the beckoning
of his godmother.
He was a self-described “very shy individual who was quiet, played a lot of video games, and had a very online persona, but was anti-social in person.”
Adrian had been a part of other organizations, sports leagues and camps growing up. But none of them had the impact and effect in cracking his shell the way Camp Fire did.
“Camp Fire saved me. It was not only life changing—but it completely mapped who I am today!”
The Camp Fire Difference
What makes Camp Fire different, according to Adrian, is its collective philosophy. Whatever the task at hand, it’s always done as a group, not by individuals. “Everyone’s working on the same ship instead of sailing against each other,” says Adrian.
He remembers showing up to his first meeting, being his quiet self, and remaining an observer rather than a participant. When the meeting ended, one of the other members in the group named Stephanie came over and befriended him. “I still don’t know if it was out of sympathy,” laughs Adrian now. But that friendship meant a lot to him, and displayed the kind of warmth, silliness, and acceptance he would come to regularly experience at Camp Fire. Adrian, Stephanie, and many others remain friends today.
By high school, many Camp Fire participants are finishing their journey through the program. However, Adrian was only getting started. After freshman year, he realized this was the first extracurricular activity in which he actively wanted to participate. At age 16, he got a job at the movie theatre to help fund himself through continued experiences with Camp Fire, including their outdoor overnight experiences camping in the mountains and other places around California.
By the time Adrian graduated from Lakewood High and headed to LBCC, Camp Fire asked him to come on as a Summer Camp Director. For four years he stayed on, growing into his role as a leader, continuing to work beside friend Stephanie, honing social skills, and helping to guide his successors on the same ship through Camp Fire programs.
Adrian is now 25 years old, working full time as an IT Specialist for a data-based software consulting firm. He loves his job in tech, which fulfills his continuing love for the screen and the gaming side of his personality. However, he credits Camp Fire for his ability to work with clients and coworkers, and to feel comfortable in leadership and social situations.
Most of all, Camp Fire instilled the spark in him to get outdoors and talk to people, two things he rarely did as a child. When Adrian’s not at work, he makes it a point to go on lots of outdoor adventures and trips, utilizing the skills and habits he learned at Camp Fire. He still volunteers once a year at their weeklong camp in the San Bernardino Mountains.
“To sum up my experience at Camp Fire, I thought I was going to spend just a couple years getting thrown at a camp afterschool. What I ended up getting was a bunch of friends who helped me become the person I am today. Camp Fire gave me a path to a career, taught me to socially interact with other individuals, and even gave me a job right out of high school! I really owe so much to Camp Fire.”
Editor’s Note: You would NEVER guess when talking to Adrian now that he was such a shy child. It was a delight to hear his story!
Camp Fire has been serving young people and their families in the greater Long Beach Area since 1923. Current programs include:
Camp Fire Groups
Day Camps and Camp Wintaka Resident Camp
WRAP after-school programs in Long Beach Unified School District
Teen Leadership programs
Local Camp Fire activities are provided at the Council Service center at 7070 E. Carson St., Long Beach, CA 90808. Located on an additional five acres at the same address is Camp Shiwaka, Camp Fire’s local day camp and challenge course. A large outdoor amphitheater at the eastern end of the property is the site of large group gatherings.