On September 6, 2002, I sadly lost my status as an only child, and with it, the undivided attention of my parents. My sister, Camden Nelsen Villanueva (’21), or “Cami,” was born in Geisinger Hospital in Danville, Pennsylvania, just like me. I remember staying with grandma, clueless as to where my parents were going or what they were doing. Little did I know that I would soon receive a six-pound, eleven-ounce gift, which I have loved ever since. She has always been an adorable younger sister and was always a trustworthy sidekick. In fact, her first spoken word was a form of brother that phonetically became “Bubba,” a nickname that has stuck with me since.
In our first home in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Cami and I embarked on our first pretend adventures, which became a very basic version of Live Action Role Playing (LARPing). I would always be the knight or superhero, but instead of my sister being the princess, she would insist on being the villain or the monster. Our LARPing always consisted of Cami growling and roaring as she attacked me in my pillow and blanket fort. Our mom, Lower School teacher Carolyn Villanueva, explained that, “as soon as she could walk, Cami would always be either dancing, singing, or terrorizing the fake kingdom in our living room.”
After three years in Lewisburg, the Villanuevas moved to Sudbury, Massachusetts as our dad, Gil Villanueva, moved from Bucknell University to Brandeis University. Cami began preschool in 2007 at Aruna’s Place. Recalling how much fun she had in Sudbury, Cami explained that whenever our grandfather drove her, they “would pass the doggie day care and Grandpa would always pretend to drop [her] off there as a joke.”
In Massachusetts, Cami claimed to experience her “best birthday party yet” when she had two ponies arrive to ride around in the back yard. She explained how thorough the cowgirl theme was, from the cowgirl hats to the cowboy boot cups. She then began her educational career at Loring Elementary, where she completed kindergarten and showed much promise as an academic and problem solver. The Villanueva family moved one last time to Richmond, Virginia where our dad is currently Assistant Vice President and Dean of Admission at the University of Richmond.
In Richmond, Cami attended Crestview Elementary for first grade then switched to Maybeury Elementary for second through fifth grade. She then joined me and our mom at Collegiate and has been a proud Cougar since the sixth grade. She expressed that Spanish is her favorite subject yet also said “math is starting to grow on her.” She also played volleyball on the girls junior varsity Gold team and swam for Collegiate on their varsity team this past year.
As an eighth grader, she is eager to join the Upper School next fall. Specifically, Cami is looking forward to the new schedule, coeducational classes, and auditioning for the fall musical. Along with most Middle Schoolers, she is also happy about more freedom and the many school events SCA offers.
I had the opportunity to ask my fellow Upper Schoolers for any advice they have for my sister or any rising eighth grader. A resounding response was to be yourself and enjoy your time, since it flies by faster than you think. Caroline Ennis (‘17) recommends “to use your study hall, and meet and become friends with your teachers,” George White (‘18) forewarns “beware of the junior year,” and Kate Anders (‘19) suggests “be open-minded for clubs and get involved in some way.”
I agree with each of the comments above, but I have a few tips as well, Cami. Dad and I want to state that “you are not allowed to date until you are 30” and mom says “always be cool, calm, and confident, like you always are.” Lastly, do your best to find the joy in everything you do and share that joy with the people around you, don’t go into the senior section until you’re a senior, and always be present in every moment. I will always be Bubba.
All photos courtesy of the Villanueva family.