How I Traded Summer Camp For...

My mom was inspired to create a summer that was productive, flexible, self-driven, and inspiring for me; gone were the days of simply sending me to summer camp.

She attended a session with other parents, walking away feeling like a lightbulb went off; she could finally satisfy my desire to have an unstructured summer alongside her desire for me to walk away with a tangible, personal accomplishment. From then on came a personalized experience; the mentor matchmaking process felt like speaking to a concierge, someone who would take an interest in who I was before providing everything Curious Cardinals had to offer. My existing interests became the basis for matches with mentors just as passionate as me; Matthew, a History and Political Science major took a deep dive into our justice system with me, while Fara, a non-profit founder herself, helped me formulate a pitch for my own 501(c)(3) organization. 

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Video: Hear from Laila as she talks about her Curious Cardinals experience!

Although the 1:1 engagements may appear similar to tutoring sessions, Curious Cardinals offers far more than school-affiliated topics ever could. Even as a resource to amplify academic growth, one’s experience with the program would go beyond simply reinforcing new concepts. With both of my mentors existed a combination of curriculum and freeform navigation, allowing not only for the discovery of new topics but unmatched depth in conversation. Neither of my mentors were concerned about going “off-script”; unanticipated conversations about current Supreme Court cases on the docket or a new, inspiring TED Talk allowed us to share raw ideas, learning from each other as students ourselves. I consistently looked forward to talking to my mentors each week, knowing that with every engaging, natural, passionate meeting I would leave even more curious than before.

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Photo: Laila and her mock-trial team at the NYC semi-finals

Although the engagements were only scheduled in hour-long blocks, I found myself spending the remainder of my free time that day taking deeper dives into the conversations that had set off fireworks in my head. Between all of this, I had more freedom in my summer than ever, scheduling my mentoring sessions around social time, travel, and any other obligations that would have made a rigid schedule unsustainable. 

As I returned to school in the Fall my purpose within extracurricular activities such as Mock Trial and Web Design deepened. I blossomed with a newfound perspective, applying what I learned about America’s justice system to my interpretation of our team’s case and utilizing my recent understanding of marketing to curate a website for my organization from scratch. 

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Photo: Logo designed by Laila with the help of a Graphic Design mentor from Stanford

At the beginning of my summer, I had no idea what “Curious Cardinals” was. Looking back, I see that Curious Cardinals enables anyone to make summer (and beyond) whatever they want it to be.





- Laila


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