Troy Camp (TC) is USC’s oldest and largest student run philanthropy that works with kids from inner city South Central Los Angeles. TC counselors put on a weeklong summer camp and then host activities throughout the following year with the campers. We also conduct a number of educational programs at local elementary schools and work with former campers to develop their leadership skills, help them prep for high school, and continue their camp experience with mentors.
I’m most involved in Student Mentoring and After School Help (SMASH), where we do after school tutoring and run an educational activity such as a science experiment or an art project.
Every Thursday afternoon about 10 of us TC counselors meet at Tommy Trojan and caravan on over to Weemes Elementary School on our bikes and skateboards. The skateboarders have it easy because they just grab on to the bikers and get dragged along (lazy, I know). We will usually dominate one entire street lane, causing the angry drivers who try to pass us to honk loudly, but that doesn’t stop us from moving as one big fat mass. I mean, come on… who travels in lines? You can’t really talk; that’s no fun.
All ten of us walk into Weemes and the kids in SMASH swarm us. They literally come out of nowhere and body slam you, enveloping you into a hug. My crew is made up of three boys in second grade. I like to think of them as my boys, and every time I show up at the playground I see one of my boys with his braids flying all over the place as he runs (waddles, really) to me. Another one swaggers over to say hi, and he’s always followed by the littlest, shiest one who always waits for me to hug him first and then won’t let go.
Today, the boys couldn’t stop talking about these things called Takis. I had no idea what they were. Apparently they’re rolled up tortilla chips dipped in something red; I had heard them rave about them before, and today they decided to bring me some. I wasn’t really into the idea of trying them because they were supposedly spicy… I find Chipotle burritos spicy, so anything that explicitly announces itself as spicy is something I would rather not taste. But they kind of threw one on me and begged me to eat it. Stupidly, I did.
We spent the next 10 minutes on a frantic search for water.
The whole time I was walking around with my mouth open basically dying, which they thought was “wack” because they don’t think Takis are spicy.
Once I had recovered, we moved into the classroom. My boys saved me a seat, started taking out their homework and pencils, and, as always, I got a little hopeful that they were going to do their work.
Then, obviously, they got distracted. Today, they started talking about Michael Jackson (my man!) and so of course I joined the conversation and attempted to sing Beat It while the boys danced.
I quickly came back to my role as a responsible adult TC counselor, but the only way I could get the boys to refocus and finish their homework was if I promised them a dance-off when they were done. So I did.
Hoping they would forget about the dance-off, I watched them do their homework, helping them when they needed it, but mainly just making sure that they were working. When they were done we started drawing and I was excited thinking they had forgotten about my promise. They didn’t.
One got up and started moonwalking. Another wanted to prove to me he was just as good at it (he’s not) and the shy one just sat with me and watched. Then they asked me to do it. I can kind of do it, or I pretend to, which seemed to satisfy them enough. Then the dance moves just kept getting harder. I started to have to dougie, Harlem Shake (which I am proud to say I can do), and jerk. It was not pretty, and they told me I lost, so I sat down in shame.
The boys made sure I never stopped watching them so they could keep showing off their moves. They were one-upping one another (boys… typical, I know) until the SMASH activity started. We were able to focus on coloring in the elephant with 6 legs (it’s an optical illusion that only I fell for) for about a full two minutes before the dance off was back on.
I was told to stay seated. Apparently, I can’t really Harlem Shake, so I was relegated to my role as an observer.