My sister and I entered foster care in 2005. Originally, our parents were raising us until it was discovered that we had a meth lab in our home. Our mother was sent to prison and our dad later committed suicide via drug overdose. We were then placed with our grandparents until they were deemed unfit to raise us. This is when we entered foster care and became separated. I grew up with a lot of anger and was often in detention for acting out.
Every year it seemed I was doing worse; I was constantly using my past as an excuse for my failures.
I had the most profound experience of my life in August 2005. I had received a full scholarship to attend Winners’ Camp and my life would never be the same. The simplest way I can explain it is that they realigned my attitude towards the world and myself. Winners’ Camp empowered me to take responsibility for my life and “Be Bitter or Be Better.” By the end of camp I was certain that no one had control over my destiny other than myself and it was up to me to use my newfound tools to shape my future.
Presently I am a Core Leader at the camp and continue to give back as much as possible. I graduated from UH Hilo with a Bachelor Degree in Economics and Business. The more I return to camp, the more I learn.
What I consider to be very beneficial at camp is experiencing youth with many different backgrounds mingling with each other. There are campers from all walks of life and we all learn from each other. I plan on supporting Winners’ Camp into the future and I strongly recommend it to others as well. -Joseph O’Connell
Winners’ Camp made my future go from whoa to WOW! Freshman year I had a 1.6 GPA and was kicked off my basketball team for having a bad attitude. That summer Delorese mentored me. Sophomore year I got a 3.8 GPA and got the Team Player Award on my basketball team. BOOM! I am a high school history teacher now for the Department of Education and I have convinced my principal that we NEED a ropes course – That is YOUR IMPACT. At work, my nickname is ‘Winners’ Camp’ because I preach your teachings to my co-teachers and students. You were so patient with me….. You never gave up on me….. You gave me the attention and feedback that I needed, Nobody has made an impact in my life the way you did. They made a mistake when they wrote that you have helped 15,000 teenagers. You have helped sooooo many more than that. You healed me and my brothers which resulted in healing for my entire family. -Amber Moorhead Williams, Teacher
“The first time I went to Winners’ Camp I was 13 years old…I had a mind-blowing experience. The following summer I came back.
The experience definitely provided confidence and self-awareness. As far as academics, I have always been a right-brained person; some of the tools camp gave me have definitely helped me, especially with my creative side and self-confidence.
I have been fortunate to work in a business that supports creativity and honesty for the most part. I think, as a freelancer, Winners’ Camp has given me a lot of confidence and life skills. I have a daughter that is three and I am so amazed at how little instruction there is in the world. The Winners’ Camp experiences definitely made me appreciate other people and be compassionate. I think that is an important major quality in my life.
I think being able to come to a situation in my personal and professional life and being able to be open minded has been important. Winners’ Camp gave me an opportunity at a young age to explore that. When there is a human element in life, it makes or breaks an experience and HLA put me in touch with my heart and my ability to connect with other people. ” -Kaleo Quenzer, Freelance Director & Art Director
“So much of Winners’ Camp was training how to be in the world, ways of being, self-confidence. It paved the way for…what type of person I was going to be as an adult. You can choose things that are going to be successful for you or not, and I was really lucky because I had a lot of training how to discern those things, and not be stuck with thinking there was only one answer; there are a million answers to everything. It has been really great, I got to choose things that society does not often think of as “success”: being an artist, a caretaker; it may not look like “success” but if you are true to your vision of who you are and what that success looks like for you, you can do anything.
I became so involved in camp that it is hard to know what influenced me more. The close relationships that formed from camp, the community, friends, who I am still really close to. That was really powerful to make those kinds of bonds with other people. There is trust from having relationships that go back that far.
I think it helped me to be confident enough to pursue my own vision, my own dream. That it was okay to choose a life as an artist, vs. needing to be a doctor, banker, etc. . . It helped free me to choose to be an artist, even though it was not a “safe” road. Winners’ Camp helped me give myself permission to be a creative person.
I am totally about meandering, and have to remind myself where am I going. Winners’ Camp is like a beacon: it reminds me to go back on course. ” -Casey Holaday, Artist, Jewelry Maker
““YOGOWYPI” You only get out of life what you put in”…I think I like that one the best because I remembered it a lot throughout college. When we set goals we are not only thinking about the things to help [us] get there, but also the things that are stopping [us] from getting there.
“Whether you think you can or can’t: you’re right”…that is absolutely true, with life and golf…with golf, you lose so much more than you win, so [you] must be resilient…you still are making progress and you have to recognize the positives.” -Bridget Dwyer, Professional Golfer
“I was 13 when I first attended Winners’ Camp. The teenage years are difficult; I was trying to figure out who I was and testing the limits. After camp, I realized that I had a great foundation that consisted of a wonderful family, a supportive community and a future full of potential. I saw that I owed it to them to change for the better. Hawai’i Leadership Academy opened me up to the big picture and I saw how I was participating in the world. There I realized that I was blessed to an extent that I could serve my community and commit to making the world a better place.
After high school, I went on to get my B.A. in Communications and my M.A. in public health. Now I work at the Hawai’i Community Foundation as a Philanthropic Service Officer. I help bring people who care to causes that matter.
We learn at camp that ‘Repetition is the Mother of Skill’. Winners’ Camp afforded me great leadership opportunities at a young age, which in turn gave me the confidence to take on leadership roles in high school, college and beyond.
Delorese has always been a great role model and mentor for me. Her vision, energy and passion for young people is an inspiration. Bill Cordes, gave me an interest in the field of Communications and Emma Pavich’s compassion and commitment to helping teens overcome emotional barriers truly made an impression on me.
Winners’ Camp helps you establish a foundation of spiritual and mental and emotional fortitude at an age when most of us are not required to have such strength. The activities provide tools that reinforce personal character, responsibility and compassion.” -Darcie Yukimura, Philanthropic Services Officer, Hawai’i Community Foundation
“Winners’ Camp was a huge part of my teenage years. …Before I went to Winners’ Camp I was struggling with school. Afterward, I was able to focus more in the classroom, set goals and bring up my GPA…I realized that I could achieve whatever I put my mind, heart, and soul into. After graduating from college, I went onto get my masters degree: something I never would have imagined possible. It was a big accomplishment for me. The same attitude has carried over into my professional life…Once I found photography, I embraced it and did everything possible to make it happen. I remember a saying from Winners’ Camp, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer was, “One bite at a time!” It taught me that I can achieve my goals one step at a time. As a freelance photographer running my own business, there are many challenges and obstacles that I face. But I know that if I have the courage and strength to do whatever it takes, I will succeed. ” -Hawkins Biggins, Freelance Photographer
“I grew up on the north shore and played on the beach my whole childhood, I have always looked for things that I found fun. For me, Winners’ Camp was another outlet for fun…but there were certain skills that definitely helped me build, including leadership skills, organizational skills and self-confidence. I also learned that although challenges might be hard, there was always a way to get through them. Through my successful experiences at Winners’ Camp I learned that I could apply that to my life and succeed. I had always been a reader, but camp enhanced my abilities. Speed-reading, memory work, mind mapping, organization, and learning to summarize information after only just glancing over something: that all really helped. I still use those skills today in my current job. ” -Makenna Ross, Manager Nohea Art Gallery
“My friend was involved with Hawai’i Leadership Academy on Kauai. I was just out of high school, heading to a fishing job in Alaska to make some money for college, I was sort of a vagabond. Delorese [Gregoire] let me be on the leadership team at the Kauai Winners’ Camp.
Before camp, I didn’t have any study skills or success in school. I had lived on my own in high school, so I had no training about how to get good grades. I graduated from high school with a GPA of 1.9, and I wanted to go onto college, but I didn’t have the money.
Winners’ Camp was a great opportunity for me to interact with kids of all different backgrounds that normally I didn’t mix with. It bridged the gap between the rich/poor kids. Growing up rough, you don’t have the chance to meet kids with different backgrounds. I think both “types” of kids have a lot to offer each other. The kids at Winners’ Camp motivated me to know that I could help a lot of people out. That is where I got the motivation to be a lawyer; because I knew through practicing law I could help people.
For me, success is not measured by money. I want to be happy with my lot in life. I am happy that I have accomplished what I have: looking at all the degrees and certificates on my office walls makes me happy. I started my own law firm, and I feel successful because I am an educated member of society. I always had motivation and goals to be a self-made man, but I just didn’t have all the tools, Hawai’i Leadership Academy added a few of the tools that I needed to succeed.” -Daniel Thiel, Attorney
“For me, Winners’ Camp did not lead to immediate results in my life, because we all have our own paths and of course Winners’ Camp can’t fix everything, but the older I get, the more I can recognize the benefits of Winners’ Camp. It gave my parents and I a common language to communicate in, and it gave me more gratitude. It provided an opportunity for me to reflect on my life, my relationships and my parents. Winners’ Camp also helped me become a more optimistic person, and opened my eyes to the possibilities of my life. Winners’ Camp taught me about the common humanity of people; it gave me a sense of being connected, because adolescence can be such an isolating experience, you can feel very lonely, but after Winners’ Camp, I didn’t feel that way anymore.
They say kids can’t actually be critical thinkers, but there are exercises at Winners’ Camp that help you think critically and provide you with an ability to see another point of view and perspective.
The saying, “Fake it ’till you make it” in a very practical way did help me. There have been times when I have been presented with challenges that I was very aware that I did not know how to meet, but the notion that if I put myself out there I could succeed helped. There were so many things at Winners’ Camp that I did not think I could do, like: the ropes course, board breaking, the trust fall. It was a really important to accomplish those things and have that experience.
All of the jobs I have had are public-service oriented: teaching, fundraising, university, and journalism. Winners’ Camp was a strong factor in my choice to work in those fields. I have an unusual ability to establish rapport with people. I think the team building and trust building exercises had to have been a part of that. On some levels, Winners’ Camp is all about connecting with people and opening up and listening, which can be a difficult and important thing for adolescents.
Winners’ Camp makes challenges seem more manageable, more achievable and also more exciting, which has to be good for any young person to learn. Another thing that has stayed with me is mindfulness, “Where the attention goes, the energy flows.” I have used the concept of mindfulness in every job that I have ever had.
Winners’ Camp asks important questions and makes you think. Teenagers are not too young to be asked, “What does it mean to be a human being on this planet?” Winners’ Camp presents kids with an opportunity for a journey of self-discovery. When I broke an agreement at Winners’ Camp, I stepped forward to take responsibility; it was the first time I had ever voluntarily admitted guilt. It was devastating, because I realized that not only had I let everyone down, I let myself down. That was a powerful experience, which I still remember today. Winners’ Camp is an extremely safe place to deal with real issues. Winners’ Camp is an incredibly rich experience that is fundamentally positive, encouraging and productive. Teenagers come out of Winners’ Camp incredibly positive about what they can do, and that feeling of empowerment and self-confidence is mind-blowing. If anything is worth a week of your life, Winners’ Camp is.” -Ragnar Carlson
I don’t really view myself as a leader. I don’t really think about it quite honestly, I just do it because it needs to get done. I focus on the completion of a task and coordinate others to help me accomplish whatever it is. I enjoy challenges and view working like a sport or hobby, it is what I do for fun. For me building a business is fun and a challenge. I get stressed out sometimes, but I am very goal oriented. I know what I want to accomplish and I do it. Along the way I make mistakes, but that’s okay. I learn from them and most often are thankful for them. I have much to be thankful for and consider myself very blessed. I will always be happy and content as I have my faith in God, family and friends. As far as material things, I am not afraid of loosing them, they are material and don’t matter as much to me. This is perhaps why I take risks in my business. To me hard work makes the quiet, slow times more enjoyable. When they happen, I really appreciate them. ” -Shyrah Maurer