Category Archives: PCC

I spent my second summer working at Project Contemporary Competitiveness Advanced Studies Program (PCC ASP) or as anyone who is a part of it knows it simply as PCC. These are stories, lessons and memories experienced over the course of 6 weeks at this truly indescribable program.

PCC – Relationships like no other

I have to start this off with a big disclaimer. I have lots of friends outside PCC. When I write about the significance of relationships made at PCC, there is no intent to say that relationships outside of PCC are less than. There is simply a bond which PCCers share which I’d like to attempt to put into words.

They say it’s something you can’t explain. They say that your friends and family outside the program are unable to understand what goes on there. I have tried over and over to explain it to friends outside the program. When I got back to college in the Fall, friends would ask, “What is it?” I would typically respond,

Summer Camp

But that’s not what it is, anyone who has gone or worked there knows there is something else to it. There is a common aspect that goes unspoken during the 6 week period. The silent theme ringing in the ears of all who inhabit the campus brings hope and happiness to all who are there. It is one that we try everyday to bring to school, work, life in general. But one that people continuously fail to demonstrate in their everyday lives.

The theme that everyone at PCC acknowledges is that there is NO judgement. For 6 weeks, you can be whoever you want. And more often than not, the person who you are during those 6 weeks is the person you wish you could be forever more. But unfortunately outside of the safety net which this program provides, there is judgement and insensitivity and ridicule. But at PCC everything you see, is everything you get.

Can you imagine a world were there is no judgement? Most cannot because no such reality exists. This world is full of judgement and criticism. But at PCC we don’t allow it. We strive to not let bullying exist. We strive to not let fear exist. We strive to create the most comfortable atmosphere possible.

One of the last nights of PCC, we hold a candle pass for each floor. And there is a portion where each proctor gets a chance to say a few words to the 40-50 young adults present. I remember when the candle came to me and I stood up and looked at all the familiar faces. All the memories from 6 weeks flashing through my head. I had been thinking all week-long of what I wanted to say to those boys. About 5 minutes before we all went out for the candle pass, one of my boys ran onto the hall in tears because his girlfriend had just broken up with him. I looked at him leaning against his bunk just sobbing and thought of all the times I’d just run to my room to break down.

When I got up to speak to my boys, I began by saying one of my favorite quotes.

“Not you, me, not nobody, is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take and keep moving forward.”

The reason I chose that quote to share with them was because I thought about how many times in life we fall down because of people’s criticisms and judgements. And how so often the hardest but really the best solution to it all, is to keep moving forward and not dwell. I told them that I’ve made poor decisions and been judged for them.

But that’s not what PCC is about. PCC is about taking those poor decisions and looking at what we did wrong. We look at what we did wrong and we learn. But more importantly,

WE GROW.

We become better people from our past selves.

To quote my favorite band (Guster),

“Stay right where you are, you’ll be half of who you were.”

If we didn’t make mistakes, we’d never learn. And if we didn’t learn, we would only weaken ourselves. But what makes learning hard is the judgement and criticism that come along with it. We exhaustively encouraged young yet growing minds to understand that judging someone gets both of you nowhere. It only holds you both back. So why not stop judging people and help them understand, help them GROW.

The things you can learn from 14/15 year olds to this day causes me to be speechless. You can learn at how insignificant things become. You can learn how to stop judging. But you can really learn that if you actually open your eyes, you might see that individuals of every age possess the capability to learn from their mistakes and move forward. Because standing still gets nobody nowhere.

For these reasons, I cherish all my PCC relationships very dearly, both with the young adults I proctored over and those who I proctored with. Because while we may not have always seen things the same way or agreed with one another, we respected each other, we never judged each other and helped one another GROW. And in my eyes, there is nothing more beautiful in a friendship.

I’m dedicating this blog post to one of my closest PCC friends. This is almost 2 months overdue and I made sure she pestered me to get it done, which she did at least once a week. She is one of the most selfless and genuine people I know and is a perfect embodiment of who a PCCer is.

The fairest Bebes of them all.

The fairest Bebes of them all.

Sarah Beberman was the floor leader of the Pink Ladies. As much as I make her life difficult, she is a wonderful friend who has taught me a lot about relationships whether she knew she did or not.

The toughest mudder of them all.

The toughest mudder of them all.

And this is her playing Mr. Frazier in the skit “If I were a Male Proctor”. She is certainly the toughest mudder I know.

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PCC – What I know now, that I didn’t know then

I feel bad that it has taken me so long to start writing these posts.  Job hunting is a full-time job in itself. But now that that has ended, I am happy to get back to the blog.

PCC is a 6 week advanced studies program for bright and gifted high school students. It is a detailed program including 2 morning classes with a master teacher and intern(s), downtime, afternoon REC and an evening core course which features a guest speaker or performance promoting some form of an educational lesson.

That is the basic outline that people are given before the program starts. But there is so much more than that. Even in training for proctors, there is little preparation for what will actually occur in the 6 weeks which come to follow.

My recent assistant program director I think put it the best, “PCC is a place where you learn to grow up. You learn how to mature and become a young adult. And while you are learning all of this, you get to be a kid. Because what is so hard to understand in today’s world is that you can grow up and still be a kid.”

I never got to go to PCC. When I was of age to go, it was too much money. As detailed and thorough as this program is, it costs quite a bit. A good amount of my friends went though. It was hard to say goodbye at the beginning of summer and then come back to school in the fall to them talking about the best summer of their lives. I listened to it for years and never got it. No one who doesn’t go to the program ever will. After my sophomore year of college, one of those close friends went back to PCC to work there. Again I said goodbye to him at the beginning and came back at the end to hear how this was this best summer of his life. I didn’t get it. And then he came up with an idea.

“Why don’t you work there with me next summer?” It was such an odd concept. Could I even do that? I didn’t go to the program, could I work there? But a few months later he forwarded me the application info and said do it. And it was the best decision I could have made.

Now I have the pleasure to say I’ve had two wonderful summers with PCC. I’ve cried more than I ever thought I would, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people I ever could have imagined and I have learned some of the most important lessons of my life.

Things I know now that I didn’t know then.

I have done lots of different kinds of work. I have worked in the food industry. I have done international service work. I have been a designer, a writer and a speaker. No work is as rewarding as working with young teens. I pinpoint on that age group for a reason. When I look back at my life at that age and look at the kids I have worked with in the past two years, I have seen how imperative that age is as a growing stage. I consider myself blessed to witness the transformation of so many young gentlemen and ladies. Working with teens is so rewarding because while you will teach them so much and give them all your time and energy, they will teach you more than you could ever imagine. Whether it’s how to make a friendship bracelet, how to do a card trick or how thankful you should be for the blessings in your life.

If you don’t cry, that is a problem. Not really. But after 6 weeks, possibly 12 if you have the chance to see a student go through the whole program, it is amazing how much you invest in them. What is so hard is that when you say goodbye, for some it is goodbye forever. There is no security or guarantee that your relationship with them will continue and that is hard. These kids teach you so much about yourself, and you teach them all about growing up and act as a role model. So as the program winds down and the realization that your relationships with these students has an expiration date, it becomes a very emotional process.

A good teacher has no shame. I once had an English teacher who was trying to help my class analyze a poem. There was a word representing a sound and none of us knew what it meant so she stood in front of the class and made the sound. It was a horrifying growl that startled all of us. When she was done we all stared and she looked disappointed. She then told us that a good teacher has no shame. They will do whatever it takes to teach. Working at this program, you must have absolutely NO shame. Part of growing up at this age is learning to be comfortable with yourself. They can’t learn that if they don’t see a staff who is comfortable with themselves. And you have to be really comfortable with yourself. Nobody told me of the things I would do while working at this program in front of 500 teenagers.

Nobody told me that I would pretend to be sexy sax man

Sexy Sax Man pumping up the crowd

Nobody told me that I would wear spandex

80’s All Male Dance Troop

Nobody told me a guy would kiss me in a kiddie pool

Mr. Estrella and me getting it on

Nobody told me I would do any of those things. Some of my friends outside the program ask how I am so comfortable with my life and I don’t get awkward or anything. I worked at this camp for two years and these are only 3 instances. But if you could see the look on kid’s laughing faces when you make a fool of yourself. If you could hear them crack up and scream at your ridiculousness. If you could hear them say things like “If someone could do that, I could do anything.” If you could witness their growth because you were just being silly and having a bit of fun, you would have NO shame too.

There are so many stories to be told and I’m sure explanations will be wanted for the above photos, and I continue to share. What you have to understand at the beginning is that this is no ordinary summer camp. There is no job like it and no experience that can be related to it. It is something completely different. Keep reading to try to get a glimpse.

GROW.

I am dedicating this post to Ms. Nguyen for her birthday!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TRAMMY

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the PCC stories

PCC is something that no matter how many blog posts I write I can never truly put into words. Some people call it summer camp, some call it summer school. It has many variations of what it actually is. When people ask what I do all summer long, I usually just say I teach / work at a summer program for high school students. It seems to be the easiest way to explain it. Because if I were to actually try to sit down and put into words or relay my experiences, I couldn’t do it justice.

But here, I can try.

What is nice about having a blog is that I have infinite space to tell my tales. Not totally true since WordPress does have a limit eventually. But I have quite a ways to go. But I tend to dabble in eloquent writing and I am hoping that I can somewhat relate to whomever is curious to read these stories, what I actually lived through for two summers.

This post is a buffer. No real adventure accounts quite yet. These are very detailed stories of individuals, moments and memories from the past summer. For the record, I won’t be using names because I was dealing with students. I usually don’t use names for courteous anonymity. But this is a bit different. For my safety and the safety of other’s identities, its more of a precautionary measure. As I get into the  stories and they become more personal then you may see why it is I am explaining this. I may occasionally use fake names if I am highlighting one individual, which I intend to do.

Back at the end of April, a close friend convinced me to come back to PCC. I told her I wanted to write about it and she was curious what my take on it would be. Being someone who never attended the program as a student, it changes the perception of everything you experience over 6 weeks.

So as I begin this journey of storytelling, I hope you enjoy what is to come. There are lots of moments to share. My next 10 blog posts won’t all be PCC either. I intend to mix ’em up.

GROW

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