Before Anytown I struggled a lot with anxiety. In ninth grade, I didn’t make a single new friend the entire school year because I was so consumed with the fear of being judged and fear – in general. I spent most of the time sitting in the back of the class or alone in the hallways at lunch. That is, until Frankie* came.
I first met Frankie in seventh grade but because Frankie was in foster care, we didn’t go to the same eighth or ninth grade. My mom decided to fill out the necessary forms and paperwork to become a foster parent and foster Frankie herself. This all happened in March of 2018. The rest of ninth grade was spent with Frankie and only Frankie. I think a part of me thought that having Frankie as my friend meant I was somehow cured of my anxiety when in actuality – she was my crutch. Tenth grade was almost a remake of ninth grade until enrolled in my 7th period “Foundations of Leadership” class. Much like Anytown, the class creates a safe environment to feel vulnerable and validated in that vulnerability. The class was a family for me.
I first heard about Anytown from the class; which was inevitable when the teacher was also a Director at camp. A few people in the class had gone to Anytown Leadership Camp as student delegates and encouraged me daily to apply. The way they described Anytown sounded too-good-to-be-true. But I applied nonetheless, right before the deadline. However, just because I applied during the beginning of summer, didn’t mean I didn’t have the excitement of going to Anytown stuck in my brain early-on in the year.
In March of 2019, my family got evicted from our apartment and sudden stress and displacement might have been too much for Frankie because she was moved into a relatives house around April. The move only heightened my anxiety and the first time I actually felt excited for something wasn’t until a week before Anytown.
Anytown was everything I hoped and dreamed of. The programs helped to create further understanding of concepts I knew little about. I learned about allyship and what it really means to be an ally.
I strengthened bonds with friends I had lost touch with in April and May. I even gained a lot more self-esteem. When I left Anytown, my family noticed a considerable shift in my confidence and happiness.
I started hanging out with friends, many of whom also went to Anytown. When school started, I had a different outlook on myself and others. Anytown created a support system so strong that after two years, I finally felt comfortable coming out to my dad. Anytown showed me that trying to make a difference isn’t always as daunting as it may seem. Going to Ambassador meetings and discussing ways to spread what we know makes me feel like changing the world is possible.
I guess it’s not a surprise when I say I recommend Anytown to everyone I know. Anytown isn’t a camp for specific people and you don’t need to know anything about social justice to attend. The only tools anyone really needs for Anytown is an open mind… and also a water bottle (hydrate or diedrate!). I will continue to support and fight for the ideals I learned up the mountain, and I thank everyone who encouraged me to go to Anytown, I don’t know who I’d be without it.
High School Student, North Canyon High School
Anytown Alumni Class of 2019
*Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.