Fourteen underprivileged high school students bubbled Saturday with what they called unforgettable explorations at “Camp Justin,” a new endeavor from Justin Rudd.
Rudd, founder of the nonprofit organization, Community Action Team, said he wanted to find a way to reach out to area students in need of some encouragement.
“I talked about wanting to do a service project like this in Long Beach before,” Rudd said.
“In previous years, I wanted to go to Africa to a project there, but I thought, ‘Why don’t I do this Long Beach?’”
He spoke with Long Beach Education Foundation Executive Director Judy Seal, who suggested Rudd look into helping out high school students.
“I’m really glad I chose these kids, because I think it was a really good fit,” he said.
With a $10,000 grant by an anonymous family donation, Camp Justin was ready to become a reality for Rudd, as well as the students
He chose seven children from Millikan High School’s “Milli-Can” program, which works to expose students to Good Samaritan activities. The other half of Camp Justin was made up of students from Millikan’s Peace Academy.
The week kicked off Monday and Tuesday with the students each receiving a disposable camera and leather journal to record their memories. At the end of each day, they were required to record their thoughts, along with a drawing to share their experiences.
The children were taken to Target, where they picked out a new outfit, and purchased backpacks and school supplies.
“I really hope to continue doing things like this with these students,” Rudd said. “It was the ride of my life. I loved helping these children do what the theme of the camp is: ‘Explore, Dream, Discover.’”
The students traveled with Rudd and his team to various spots around Southern California, including the Los Angeles Zoo, the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Southern California.
They continued their week with a fireboat ride around the Port of Los Angeles, enjoyed lunch on Queen Mary with Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, hiked along cliffs in Palos Verdes and picked up trash on the beach.
“This week was so incredible,” said Millikan student Alejandro Garcia. “I just can’t believe we did it all in a week.
Each day was a complete surprise to the campers, who also toured the Huntington Library, walked through the botanical gardens in San Marino, had lunch at Claim Jumper with Judge Danny Lowenthal, visited the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at California State University, Long Beach, and toured the Recycling Center and CSULB campus.
“There are no words to express what Justin has done for us,” said student Carlos Garcia. “Everything is unbelievable.”
The student’s week concluded with horseback riding at Griffith Park and a tour of the FOX Studios for lunch with former Miss USA and KTLA reporter Lu Parker, facilitated through FOX executive Ralph Millero. Later, the students attended a private screening of the movie “Rio.” They also were treated to an evening at the Orange County Fair and were given brand-new bicycles at their closing ceremony barbecue last Saturday at Lucille’s BBQ, on Second Street.
“None of the children had been to the FOX studios or gone horseback riding,” Rudd said. “They met a former Miss USA and met the mayor of their city. None of them had ridden an elephant, either.”
Rudd said he hopes to get the children together again soon, and is planning a trip back to the Fox Studios for a taping of “American Idol” this fall, again through Millero.
For more information about Camp Justin or about the Community Action Team, visit www.justinrudd.com/campjustin.