Mariana, 16, 2021 EFC alum, said in her application essay: I was born in a Latin-American country (Brasil). My mother’s family descended from the indigenous population and my father’s family from European backgrounds, such as Portuguese. However, we do not know much about our backgrounds.

I enjoy reading Brazilian Literature, especially Modernist poets such as Drummond and Manuel Bandeira. I am interested in any literature that could make me a better person: from Harry Potter to C.S. Lewis and Tolstoy. Many things excite me, but the one I am passionate about is studying the Arts. A few examples of my favorites are Monet, Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Degas, Marcel Duchamp, Frida Kahlo, and Vik Muniz. In 2020, I fell in love with yoga, which has been a great way of relaxing and finding peace of mind. One of the most important things to me is my relationship with those who have always been there for me: my parents, my siblings, and my best friends. In essence, I see myself as a curious young woman, who is in love with poetry, art, and has a crush on biology and STEM. In my opinion, the most special feature I have is the eagerness to learn and desire to be a real global citizen, by causing effective change anywhere I go.

In October of 2021, we interviewed Mariana soon after she initiated her action plan as part of EFC’s follow-up program. You’ll hear more about that in this interview — and how the Encampment has influenced her life so far. 

What did you learn at the Encampment?  I learned a lot about community because even though we weren’t part of the same community, the same cities, even the same country, we built community. Even though everyone had different backgrounds, we were part of a community at the Encampment and it was amazing to meet such amazing people. We talked a lot about democracy and community and what builds community, what makes someone be part of a community and feel welcome in the community. That was amazing for me because I had never thought about it. It was a new topic for me, and it was amazing to learn more and to meet all those inspiring alums who spoke with us.

How is the Encampment influenced your life?  The Encampment encouraged me to be an active person in my community. Before then I wanted to change the place I live in, especially my school community — I wasn’t really happy about it. There were issues I wanted to take part in, but I didn’t know how. But the Encampment encouraged us to be our best and to do what we can. You guys put us out there and made us ask questions and interview the people who are part of our communities. I could know more about my school because I focused on my school. I could see that I wanted to talk more about sustainability there. That’s how I came up with my action plan, which I had no idea about before the Encampment. The staff helped me and encouraged me that “Yeah, you can do something like this! What are your ideas?” I started doing my project, which is “Organic Minds.”

I focused on eighth and ninth graders. We had a week of lectures where we discussed a lot about sustainability and different [related] issues. This was a bit difficult for me to start because I’m a shy person. Usually I wouldn’t stand up in front of a lot of people who I didn’t know to whom I had never talked. It was something way out of my comfort zone — in a good way. Now we have an ongoing project based on composting at school. This week we didn’t have classes, so I gave the students a little assignment to collect the food scraps from their homes and take them to the next project meeting, and they were really excited. They are inviting new friends to go to the project. So I don’t have to advertise it! They are already doing it and engaging more people!  None of these things would be possible if it wasn’t for the Encampment.

Composting at Mariana’s school as part of her action plan.

Why is the Encampment important now?  The EFC is important right now because there are a lot of issues to be addressed these days: racial crimes, the environmental crisis, such big problems to be solved in the world right now. Democracy is in danger and we youth have to act and do something about it because the future will impact us and our children, our grandchildren. That’s the work of the Encampment — to make young people aware of what’s happening in the world and give them the tools to address these issues and to build community wherever they are. It’s such an amazing and important job because, yeah, it’s way, way easier to just sit and wait for the future to happen instead of trying to change and trying to make the world a better place.

Suppose a friend of yours was thinking about going to the Encampment? What would you say to them? I would definitely encourage them, because the Encampment is such an important organization. When I was thinking about applying, I saw in the website that you can engage creatively the issues you care about and that’s been amazing! Even though it was online, we could be creative and we were encouraged to be creative, and there was a focus on the arts, including music and theater. Besides focusing on the issues you care about, you can engage creatively with new people from different backgrounds. You will definitely be a better and new person when you leave the Encampment because it will change your life completely.

Tell us about the follow up program. Is that helpful to you?  When we finished the summer program, I had the idea for my action plan, but I didn’t have the technical parts and I hadn’t engaged the people yet. I only had the idea. The follow-up program helped me because we had time every two weeks to discuss a few things on our action plans with Miss Jane [Sapp, education director] and Jesus [Salcido Chavarria, program director] and the Encampers. This made it way easier to come up with ideas and how we could engage people, things we had to decide. They encouraged us. I have an example: it was one week before the week of [sustainability] lectures began, and I wasn’t feeling really confident about it. I was not that sure and ready to give up because I didn’t think people would engage with the project. I discussed that with Jesus and he encouraged me and answered a few questions. He said that “having this anxiety before starting things is normal, it’s OK.” It was really nice to have someone that understood that and could help me through the whole process. When everything was happening, it happened a bit fast but I would send pictures to Jesus and the Encampers and they were really supportive. It was another bonding moment where we could share our concerns and the happy moments and all of it.

 Do you have a favorite story or memory from the Encampment? I have two:  we can change our virtual background on Zoom and one day we all changed our backgrounds to be a picture of Michael [Carter, education director for the 2021 summer intensive]. It was such a fun moment because we could laugh together — everybody was pretending to be Michael.

I also enjoyed the talent show because everybody was able to show a little bit more about themselves. There were people singing like Carter, Jesus, Miss Jane and Michael. Then some people read poems they wrote and texts. They wrote these things and I could see their talents.

You read a poem?  Yeah, it wasn’t mine, it was a Brazilian poem [“The Flower and the Nausea” by Carlos Drummond de Andrade] that I really liked. It was written during the war so he was talking about all the deaths and the uncertainty that they had during the war, about all the times when we feel helpless and hopeless, and in the end, he says, “a flower grows from the street” and there’s hope again because we can believe that there will be better days and a better tomorrow. It’s an amazing poem and I read it in Portuguese and in English.

Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked about? I really enjoyed yesterday [EFC’s 75th Anniversary Celebration on Zoom]. It was really nice to listen to the EFC alums from all these years [the 1940s to present] and see them. Everyone was discussing the history of the Encampment. And I love the alumni video — it was really inspiring!