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 Construction Begins on Historic Cuyamaca Outdoor School

​More than 600 camp enthusiasts traveled to San Diego’s great outdoors for the Cuyamaca Outdoor School Groundbreaking and Open House. Under a bright sun and cloudless sky, parents, students, County Office staff, and Outdoor Education corporate sponsors toured the Cuyamaca Outdoor School grounds, heard presentations on wildlife and Outdoor School activities, and attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the outdoor school’s expansion.

Camp Cuyamaca, the first outdoor school in the state and known to generations as Sixth Grade Camp, is set to have two additional dorm-style cabins, a student assembly hall lodge, a new Camp Cuyamaca archway sign, and upgrades to the existing restrooms. The $7 million project, utilizing categorical funds that can be spent only on capital projects, will allow Cuyamaca to serve an additional 140 students per week.

The groundbreaking festivities also included the introduction of the first two partners, Target and Kaiser Permanente, in the County Office of Education’s corporate sponsorship campaign for outdoor education.

Target’s $50,000 contribution will be used to defray the cost of outdoor school participation for underprivileged students. Also in attendance at the groundbreaking was Rodger Dougherty of Kaiser Permanente, whose company committed $100,000 to the Outdoor Education Green Machine program.

Said Laysha Ward, Target President of Community Relations, “Recognizing that education is a cornerstone of our communities, Target proudly supports programs that foster an appreciation for learning in the classroom and beyond. By partnering with organizations like the Cuyamaca School and San Diego County Office of Education, which offer an innovative approach to learning, we hope to encourage a continued love of education in young minds across the country.”

Rodget Dougherty, Director of Public Affairs for Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, said, "Educating children about healthy eating and active living is part of Kaiser Permanente´s DNA. Thousands of San Diego kids will benefit from the Green Machine, and Kaiser Permanente is proud to be the first company to sponsor this important program."

County Superintendent Randy Ward took part in the groundbreaking ceremony, as did County Board of Education President Sharon Jones, Cuyamaca Outdoor School Principal Greg Shuett, Outdoor Education Director Brian Swagerty, State Parks Interpretive Specialist Michael Rodriques, Sweetwater Union High School District 8th grader Cynthia Gonzalez, and Target Store representative Neil Strong.
Sue Hartley of the County Board of Education, as well as several SDCOE staff, were also in attendance.

Other corporate support for the festivities came from outdoor equipment company REI, which sponsored busloads of students and families to attend the event; and two local marketing/advertising companies, MJE Marketing and Simpler & Simpler. Camping company Coleman also supported the event as a result of the sponsorship campaign.

“I’m excited we were able to take part in today’s tour’s and activities,” said Margaret Grantham, parent of a future Camp Cuyamaca student. “I wanted my son Angel to see the camp beforehand so that it wouldn’t be such a culture shock for him during his week stay in February. All of the staff here are wonderful and today’s Open House really exceeded all of my expectations. I have no doubt Angel’s going to enjoy this experience.”

According to Shuett, studies have shown that students who attend outdoor school score higher on state tests, and more than 90% of high school students say that the outdoor school program was their most memorable K-12 experience.

Former Cuyamaca Outdoor School student Cynthia Gonzalez, now in 8th grade, shared her camp experiences during the groundbreaking ceremony. “In my life everything is digital,” said Gonzalez. “If we didn’t have this school, how would know that we have to take care of our environment? My Sixth Grade Camp experience was life changing.”