Camp Kesem alumni are the best and brightest and we want to show them off! Every month, we spotlight Camp Kesem alumni and their incredible stories. To recommend yourself or a fellow alumni for our Alumni Spotlight, email Lauren Ellis at firstname.lastname@example.org
This month, we are featuring Shari “Roxy” Ilsen, who served as a committee member, coordinator, and co-director of Camp Kesem Stanford until 2006. Since graduation, she has also served on Camp Kesem Stanford’s Advisory Board. Additionally, she is a member of Camp Kesem’s Legacy Circle.
Shari is currently the Senior Online Communications Manager for VolunteerMatch – the world’s largest volunteer network.
Shari graduated from Stanford with a BS degree in Psychology and Biological Sciences. Going into her senior year of college, Shari planned to go to pursue a PhD in Neuroscience. As a double major and a student who was constantly working in the lab, she had earned her right to this path. However, as her senior year progressed and she continued her work with Camp Kesem, she realized she didn’t want to work in a lab the rest of her life and would rather work in the nonprofit sector. Regarding this decision, Shari says, “I was having way more fun doing the day-to-day grunt work for Camp Kesem than going to the lab. That is when I decided to go into nonprofits.”
Shari now spends her days managing and overseeing all online communication for VolunteerMatch. She loves what she does and has thrived in her role. Shari nearly doubled the distribution list for VolunteerMatch, increasing it to over 350,000 recipients. “The work itself might not be glamorous, but what you are working towards is,” says Shari.
The tangible impact that Shari saw from her daily work with Camp Kesem continues to inspire her and solidify her commitment to the nonprofit sector. To those wanting to work in the nonprofit world, she offers this advice: “It’s important to keep the big picture in mind, remind yourself how important it is and the impact you are having.”
Thank you Shari for everything you have done for Camp Kesem and for allowing us to share your story!
This month the alumni spotlight is on John “Abu” Bradburn who was a four time counselor, fundraising coordinator, and teen advisor for Indiana University. He also served as an advisor for UVA, North Carolina, and Northwestern University. Additionally, for the past four years John has served as the Treasure on Camp Kesem’s Board of Directors.
John is currently the Vice President at Sandbox Industries. He works with a team that manages two venture capital funds, with $300 million in total.
John graduated from Indian University with a BS degree in Accounting and Finance, and MBA. He continued to pass the CPA and CFA exams. His success didn’t end with test taking. John has since been offered board positions for multiple companies. He serves on the board of directors for Sandbox Industries portfolio company Patientco, and as a board observer for Nexidia, EveryMove, naviHealth, and Phreesia.
When asking John what helped him prepare for his professional success he says, “Camp Kesem helped prepare me for the “real world” much better than anything else in college.” His biggest lesson come as a fundraiser coordinator, “As a fundraising coordinator, I was responsible for making sure we raised enough money to put on camp and take as many campers as we could. It taught an accountability that nothing else in college could teach. That’s something that was incredibly valuable as I began my career.”
John also recognizes the intangible impact Camp Kesem has had on his professional career, “Camp Kesem helped me open up as a person, much like the campers. This has been very beneficial for my entire career.”
We want to thank John for sharing his story for the alumni spotlight and for his continues dedication to Camp Kesem!
This month, we are featuring Angie “Squirrelz” Lorton who was a founding member of Camp Kesem ASU in 2006 and was Co-Chair (Director) for two years.
Angie was determined to be a pharmacist, specifically she wanted the opportunity to interact with doctors, nurses, and patients with the goal of providing the patient comprehensive and collaborative care. She began her career in 2007 as a pharmacy technician, and through incredibly hard work, her experience with Camp Kesem, and the help of her husband (fellow pharmacy student) she graduated from Midwestern University in 2012 with a Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD). Last November Angie achieved her dream and was given the opportunity to be a pharmacist at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center.
She credits Camp Kesem in helping her admittance to Midwestern University and skills that continue to help her today, “During my interview for Midwestern, I remember feeling as if my involvement and experiences gained from Camp Kesem gained me an admission ticket into school. Besides the ability to share my stories about friends, campers, and the goals of the organization, Camp Kesem has taught me countless skills, including perseverance, teamwork, and the ability to strive for greatness. All of these skills have helped me in different situations throughout my career.”
As Angie reflected about her road to be a pharmacist, she couldn’t help but think of her involvement as a student leader for Camp Kesem. She offered this piece of advice to all the current students and young alumni, “Take a step back once in awhile and look at the grand impact you are having on many lives. There are not enough opportunities to do this as a college student, so try to soak in the greatness of the opportunity in front of you! Camp Kesem can be a life changing experience!”
Thank you Angie for allowing us to share your story and congratulations on accomplishing your dream!
This month the alumni spotlight is on Bethany “Peach” Slentz who is a founding member of CK Berkeley, former co-chair, teen advisor, and CKAA co-chair.
Bethany began her college career with the anticipation of medical school. As she continued to hold multiple positions in Camp Kesem she soon her realized her talent for the business realm. Bethany is now the National Client Team Leader for Advantage Sales and Marketing, touching over $900 million in sales.
She credits Camp Kesem with her success in sales, “Camp Kesem teaches you some of the core skills required to be successful in business: communication and selling skills, project and time management, cross-functional project collaboration.”
Her success at ASM has allowed her to not only have her own professional success, but allow her to hire and recommend other Camp Kesem alumni. Bethany said this about getting hired and helping fellow CK alumni, “Camp Kesem helped me get this job. The company I currently work for was one of many businesses we targeted locally for in-kind donations, and provided me with a venue for introducing myself as a student leader. The company was very impressed by what we were accomplishing as students, that they have since hired multiple Camp Kesem alumni.”
Camp Kesem has also had a life-changing impact on Bethany personally. Recently, she became engaged to a fellow CK alum and former counselor. She said this about her upcoming wedding, “We are looking very to a few rounds of the song “boom chicka boom” at the reception!”
Thank you Bethany for allowing us to share your story and being this month’s alumni spotlight!
This month’s alumni spotlight is on Kevin “Mango” Rustagi who is an original member of Camp Kesem MIT and one of the founders of MIT’s Teen Program.
Kevin has dedicated himself to a professional career of starting new ventures. Currently, Kevin is working as the Founder of Invention of Noise Studios, where he explores innovative new guerrilla audio/video product and nascent consumer product design.
With his previous company, Kevin broke the fashion record on Kickstarter, raising over $400,000 for a project with an initial goal of just $30,000. Through this initiative, he helped create a product line that is worn by people in over 40 countries. Additionally, he helped raise over $1 million in financing to help grow the venture, bringing on new partners in the process. Hid work has been featured in Forbes Inc., Popular Science, and the New York Times, as well as in blogs and on the radio in Sweden, India, China, and Australia. Regarding his success, Kevin says, “I have had many setbacks, and I always had help. Camp [Kesem], and working with amazing campers and peers taught me a deep sense of resilience.”
Kevin also credits Camp Kesem for its role in his professional success. Says Kevin: “I got a chance to see what happens when you take several dozen incredibly talented students and concentrate all their energies on one thing… It has directly influenced how I think about startups, design, and creating organizational cultures that foster a sense of belonging. I formed some of my deepest friendships at Camp Kesem, and over the past few years in the crazy world of startups I have drawn on them for support and counsel. My fellow Camp Kesem-ers are always there, through thick and thin. My job often involves high stakes and high emotions – I would not have been as successful without my fellow counselors. They are among the most patient and kind people I have ever met.”
Kevin’s final words are a wise takeaway for every student and alumni. “Camp Kesem showed me that if you and you friends want to create something that means a lot to a lot of people, you can. And you probably should,” says Kevin.
Thank you Kevin for allowing us to share your story and being this month’s alumni spotlight!