Tina Hakimi graduated from Mountain Pointe with a love of math and science but thought she would pursue a career in marketing. A quick conversation with her parents made her realize that obviously wasn’t the best fit for her. Now studying biomedical engineering at Arizona State University, Hakimi has a soft spot for kids who might not be able to have that same discussion with their own parents and realize where their talent lies.

It was this realization and a drive to do something good that led Hakimi and her partner, Neil Saez, to starting their own nonprofit, Camp HOPE. Camp HOPE (Helping Orphans Prosper through Education) is a summer camp for foster children and orphans to explore different career options and gain some motivation to pursue higher education.

“I had worked with a camp before and I loved the program,” Hakimi said. “I realized a camp environment was the perfect way to get children out of their box. I thought we could apply this medium to other groups of kids that need it and I started thinking of foster children and orphans.”

The group officially formed in January of 2011 and quickly realized there may be too much red tape to do a camp in the U.S. right away. Not wanting to lose the steam they had gathered they found an orphanage in Mexico, Estado 29, and hosted their first summer camp at that location.

“Our first year was like a proof of concept,” Hakimi said. “We were trying to see if a summer camp would really work. Is one week enough to show kids what they could do with their lives and implant the drive they need to get through school? We realized it really does work. It was amazing and one of the best experiences of our lives.”

The group plans to continue doing a yearly summer camp in Mexico, but their real goal is to start a camp in Arizona within the next year or two.

The camp is a week long and focuses on a different career field or college major each day. Campers get to experience hands-on activities that relate to engineering, humanities, physical sciences, business and culture, and natural sciences. As campers look back on the week and realize what activities they liked best, they can better understand their own talents.

Camp HOPE uses college students for counselors. As students themselves, Hakimi and Saez know how passionate students can be about a cause, and at the same time about whatever they are studying. That passion is something Hakimi said she hopes transfers to the kids at camp.

Ultimately, Hakimi said she would like to see Camp HOPE chapters at different college campuses across the country, each doing their own fundraising and organizing for their own local camps. For now, the group is working to make connections and do some fundraising for their first camp in Arizona. A camp in Arizona is going to cost the group a lot more than their previous camp in Mexico, so to help pay for it they are hosting a silent auction on Friday, April 13 at Inspirador in downtown Chandler, 63 E. Boston St., from 7:30 to 10 p.m.

Tickets for the event cost $25 and include dinner by Carrabba’s Italian Grill, two alcoholic drinks, unlimited non-alcoholic drinks, a sampling of activities performed at summer camp and live entertainment. Starbucks Coffee will also be at the event, as well as Cupcakes by Emily.

For more information on the group or to purchase tickets, visit http://camp4hope.org or call (480) 510-6032.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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