Carmel Valley students’ wizardry creates magical ‘Harry Potter’ camp

Having read “Harry Potter” 17 times, there’s no question the seven-book series has left a lasting impact on Carmel Valley’s Carolyn Chu. Hoping to share the adventures of the young wizard with other youth, the Torrey Pines High School senior recently held a weeklong camp for those interested in the wizarding world.

“We lived vicariously through these kids,” Carolyn said with a laugh. “We had a lot of fun.”

Carolyn first read the J.K. Rowling books when she was 9 years old. Now 17, she remembers wishing for an acceptance latter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — the fictional magic school, where Harry Potter and his friends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger were students.

“I loved the magic of the books,” she said. “I loved the characters and their adventures.”

Inspired by her love of the series, Carolyn shared her idea for a weeklong camp centered on the books with her friend and fellow Torrey Pines senior Michelle Zhao. Also a fan of the fantasy novels, Michelle was quick to sign on for the creative camp.

“Carolyn brought up the idea last spring, and I thought it was brilliant,” said 16-year-old Michelle, who also lives in Carmel Valley. “I’ve always had a profound appreciation for books in my life, and I have no doubt that the ‘Harry Potter’ series was integral in cultivating that. I thought the camp would be a great way to allow elementary school students to share their love for books and reading.”

With the help of four additional friends, the pair planned the camp. After months of planning and multiple trips to craft stores, the weeklong camp kicked off Aug. 10 at North University Community Library in San Diego.

“It was the perfect place because it has a playground, a field and a patio,” said Carolyn, who promoted the camp by posting fliers around the community and emailing school- and community-based programs. “Everybody at the library was super nice.”

From 1-5 p.m. every day from Aug. 10 through Aug. 14, campers gathered at the library for activities inspired by the series.

Based on the results of an online questionnaire, the children were sorted into the four houses of Hogwarts on the first day of camp. Every camper received a badge and a wand made of painted chopsticks. They then created house banners and participated in an obstacle course.

Over the next few days the kids participated in other activities, from a scavenger hunt to trivia. They also played a game of Quidditch and made Butterbeer — a combination of vanilla ice cream, vanilla cream soda and butterscotch syrup.

Although this was Carolyn’s first time creating a camp, it wasn’t her first time working with children. As a member of her school’s Art In Motion Club, she leads arts and crafts projects for kids at the Carmel Valley Library. She is also an experienced babysitter.

“Kids surprise you a lot,” said Carolyn, who is also a member of Torrey Pines’ Model United Nations team, a member of the badminton team and editor of the school’s science magazine. “They can be really creative.”

A total of 22 fourth- and fifth-grade students participated in Harry Potter Camp. Because it was the camp’s first year, Carolyn opted not to charge a fee, so all children participated for free.

“It was the best turnout I could have asked for,” said Carolyn, who hopes to pass on the camp to other high school students as she plans to go to college next fall. “The kids were really creative and enthusiastic.”

“Seeing the happiness of the kids and their parents was really wonderful,” Michelle added. “One of the students in my house told me on our last day that he had ‘the best week,’ and those words really validated all the effort that went into this camp. I hope that our students walked away with a love of ‘Harry Potter’ and the values it teaches.”

For more about the camp, visit