Guest Blog: Cleo Person, Yunasa Counselor & Former Camper

May 1, 2023

If you are curious about some of the defining moments Yunasa has on campers, read on for Yunasa Counselor Cleo’s creative glimpse of her favorite experiences from camp! Cleo will be joining us for Yunasa Michigan this summer.

This just in: Jack seemed to be dominating in Magic, the Gathering. However, in their second face off, Madeline pulled out a never-before-used defense saving herself in the last moment, and made a huge comeback by playing another card from the new deck Emily gave her just this week. 

In other news, Howell Nature Camp, already a planet-friendly place by its very mission to save and care for injured or vulnerable wildlife, has become even more environmentally conscientious than ever. This summer, camper-led initiatives have spurred trash pickup hikes along the camp’s many trails, and food a new food scraps waste management system. 

Not-to-be-missed artistic offerings of this past July included a soaring a cappella rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides,” stand-up comedy routines managing to be both wacky and actually in good taste, and the most spirited cover of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” since the minions first came on the scene.

What in the world can all these wildly diverse events have in common? Well of course, these news flashes barely scratch the surface of a single week’s worth of Yunasa memories highlighting some of Yunasa campers’ many, and profoundly intense, passions.

Yunasa lets young people be the most concentrated and complete version of themselves, in the full support of a community, or “tribe” as we often call it, of others who appreciate and truly celebrate all the sparkling facets. When I first attended Yunasa about 17 years ago, I immediately went home and told my sister that she should attend as soon as she became old enough.  That was a surprising move only because, although coming from the same parentage and family, the crossover of our major interests is pretty much zero. She wouldn’t be caught dead watching a dance video, while learning a new dance is the thing that has always excited me most. And on the other hand, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a sci-fi novel or ones about sentient robots, and have probably never read a spy series, both of which would probably make my sister ashamed to even admit she knows me.

However, at Yunasa, it’s equally possible to meet a new trusted companion with whom you can finally go in-depth with into your specific passions, or conversely with someone who on the outside, you may have very little in common. They might even come from a totally different generation! Somehow still, when we come together around the campfire to begin and end every camp, you’ll hear the words being sung out, “It’s in every one of us, to be wise, find your heart…” and it’s pretty close to a guarantee that each new and returning camper will have touched some part of that wisdom within themselves during the week. Best of all, they’ll probably have some new skills to help them feel a greater confidence in their ability to reach it again whenever it’s needed throughout the year. 

Participating in Yunasa as a counselor now feels like a yearly dream. The consecutive years of camp are often as different from one another in highlight activities, favorite jokes, or warmest bunk memories as can be, and yet the through line of them all is seeing a place where each year more people reunite with a sense of deep belonging and acceptance for all they are and are growing into. Having a summer camp that brings people from all over the country, and sometimes the world, as part of IEA’s offerings is extraordinarily special. If you are interested in joining us at camp this summer, please apply with the link below to begin your journey of being a part of a special community.

Apply to Yunasa 2023

In addition, if you are interested in contributing, any donation goes a long way toward making what was initially only a dream of the Fellows, now into a living reality. It is the opinion of a 10-year+ Yunasa veteran that the risk of some tears on the last day of camp, when you must bid farewell to friends you may not see for at least another year, is worth the opportunity of finding oneself and richly-cherished connections, which are so great a part of the Yunasa experience.