Ask local sixth-graders to name a favorite school year activity, and many will, without hesitation, mention “sixth-grade camp.” Within the Santa Barbara community, the popular outdoor education programs have become an eagerly anticipated highlight of the elementary school experience, and since 1989, high school students from the Anacapa School have played an important role in giving sixth-graders a positive camp experience.

This year, Anacapa served three schools: Peabody Charter School (Oct. 19-22), Montecito Union School (April 5-8), and Washington and Adams elementary schools (May 3-6).

Anacapa’s headmaster and faculty chose students to serve as Cabin Leaders based on their leadership skills and academic achievements. Separate meetings with the camp director, the sixth-grade teachers and Anacapa Headmaster Gordon Sichi helped the students prepare to lead their younger charges.

Although four days away from classes might sound like a vacation to some, Cabin Leaders can tell you that they are “on duty” 24 hours a day. Each Cabin Leader is in charge of his or her own cabin of sixth-graders, day and night throughout the four days, and they assist camp naturalists with activities and hikes. It’s an intense schedule, but the rewards are great.

“Even though watching a bunch of sixth-graders might sound terrifying, it’s opened my eyes to a possible career in teaching,” Anacapa junior Emily Johnson said.

Sophomore Chris Eckert agreed: “Sixth-grade camp has broadened my post-high school ideas. I would like to go into teaching someday.”

The sixth-grade teachers had high praise for Anacapa’s Cabin Leaders. Carter Morgan of Montecito Union School said, “The Anacapa kids are willing to take on nearly any task; they also develop strong bonds with our students while maintaining a balance between being a friend and an authority figure. … Over the years, the Anacapa students have truly touched the hearts of many Montecito Union kids, and for that, we are so very grateful.”

Peabody Charter School sixth-grade teacher Lauren Rodriguez also credited the efforts of the Cabin Leaders.

“Anacapa students provide emotional support to the sixth-graders when they are far away from home, creating a positive environment and actively building a sense of community within the cabins,” she said. “Anacapa students have enthusiasm and energy that is contagious.”

When the Cabin Leaders returned to Anacapa after each camp session, the entire school turned out to welcome them back and to hear about their experiences. Cabin Leaders took center stage at an all-school get-together, where they were asked to recount what was positive and negative about their week, as well as something important that they learned. The younger Anacapa students paid close attention to these testimonials and began to envision being a Cabin Leader themselves someday. After this all-school meeting, the Anacapa Senate hosted a traditional “ice cream social,” with Cabin Leaders going first in line.

For the final touch, each elementary school hosted a special luncheon on their campus to honor the Anacapa Cabin Leaders. The sixth-graders were thrilled to see their Cabin Leaders again, and the feeling was mutual. Excitement, laughter and memories were the order of the day at these reunions. This year, Anacapa innovated yet another way to serve our schools — and keep in touch with our campers. One day a week, Anacapa tutors traveled to the elementary school campuses for their after-school homework clubs to help the younger students in math. Students and teachers greatly appreciated their academic assistance.

Anacapa students who served as Cabin Leaders this year were Patrick Alcerro, Grayson Baggiolini, Julio Bernal, Sophie Crane, Chris Eckert, Mateus Elomaa, Brenda Gutierrez, Genn Hatfield, Emily Johnson, Henry Johnston, Esai Macario, Isaac Macario, Caitlin Mackie-Burke, Maria Petraitis, Connor Proctor, Ryan Reish, Brenda Renteria, Corrina Roberts, Ila Rutten, Kiara Trujillo, Libby Tuomi and Haley Yuhasz.

— Sheryn Sears is the executive administrator for Anacapa School.