Testimonial from a Selector - Norma Pérez-Sanford

Confidence. Leadership. Values. Courage. Respect. Rising to the Challenge. Hope.

These words and many others come to mind when I think of R.M. Pyles Boys Camp and the successes that I have come to see in our youth over the years.

Our small town of Fillmore is only 30 minutes away from the Pyles office in Valencia where the camp buses leave every summer.  Fillmore, and little Piru next to us, are isolated from the various services that are easily accessed by many youth in Ventura County. There is limited transportation -- only going West. There have been many times when college-age youth drop out of classes due to the early bus being full and not being able to make their Ventura College classes on time. 


Many of our youth come from single parent homes with very low incomes; agricultural jobs or fast food employment for which many high school students and parents compete. Multiple families live together in one household, each in a bedroom, to offset living costs. I have seen where children sleep on the cement or dirt floors in the garages. Many a time parents have shared a meatless meal with me when I do a home-visit.

My volunteering with Pyles began in my early 20's (I am now 55) in community volunteering and in the Fillmore Unified School District when I started as an instructional assistant. I have since worked as a school counselor in our elementary, middle and high schools, now promoted to FUSD District K-12 Counselor.  Over the years, I have been witness to many young people getting involved more and more in violent crimes, drugs, and gangs. I have attended funerals of former students who did not have a clear direction or positive role models in their life. I know of young men and women who use their bodies to obtain drugs or earn a living.

Recently, there was a suicidal young man whom I asked, "Give me the name of a person you respect, admire, or care for?"  As I watched him give me a blank stare and struggle to come up with a name, he answered, "No one."  This is one of the times, when I clench my jaws, try to appear normal and turn my body away so that he cannot see my eyes tearing up.

I have repeated over and over again how I see Pyles as a way to give hope and help young men in similar situations. For many years now, I have referred many young boys to Pyles. When I visit them at Camp, I can immediately see the difference in their demeanor. They are happy to see me and thank me for signing them up. It is wonderful to see them healthy and smiling in the great outdoors, without electronics and enjoying new friends and camp activities. I see true joy, freedom, lifestyle alternatives and a new life inside of them -- and all of this is free!

I am pleased to tell you that there are many, many R.M. Pyles Boys Camp success stories, and with your help many, many more to come!

Recently, there has been a particular student who has been stellar in his school behavior and grades. At one point, as his counselor, I, along with other school staff, thought we had lost him to gang activity and unexplained anger issues, BUT he has redirected his life in a very positive way due to his participation in Pyles for several years now.

I tell everyone how Pyles offers activities to help develop boys into good citizens, leaders, friends and follow the role-modeling of some of the BEST, MOST HONEST and RESPECTABLE men I have met in my life. For them, there is a chance, a good chance, to live a healthier, happier, safer, and normal boy's life.

There is nothing more important than living a normal childhood. Pyles eases young boys into young men with the essential male skills and values that are needed in our world today. Please continue this great program by donating from your company or person, it will be one of the best contributions you will ever make in your life. It would be a great honor and with endless gratitude to speak to your company on the excellent work and outcomes that R.M. Pyles Boys Camp and their staff have accomplished for our community’s young men.

Norma Pérez-Sandford
District K-12 Counselor
Fillmore Unified School District