Inclusive Youth Development Organization Camp Fire Seeks Candidates for National Board of Trustees

Camp Fire is seeking a diverse group of candidates across the U.S. to serve on the Camp Fire National Board of Trustees beginning in January 2024. 

Growing up is hard. That’s why Camp Fire connects young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves. We envision a world where all young people thrive and have equal opportunities for self-discovery, community connection, and engagement with nature.  

Our organization is at an exciting inflection point. Building on our 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, and with a recent catalytic investment from #startsmall, and new collaborations with AT&T, 3M, and Teva, the board is looking to expand with new members who are equally motivated to build on this momentum and advance Camp Fire’s mission. 


Board terms are three years. The board meets three times a year, with one of those meetings in person and the other two held virtually. All board members also serve on at least one committee which meets virtually. 

We are proud to have 100% board giving on our National Board of Trustees. 

Board Candidate Qualifications 

We welcome and encourage people of all backgrounds to apply. While Camp Fire seeks candidates with diverse perspectives and expertise, geographic location, and lived experiences, we are focusing our search on individuals with expertise in human resources, legal, public relations, and accounting/finance. Board members must be committed to Camp Fire’s Statement of Inclusion.  

Board Application Process 

To learn more about our organization, visit

To learn more about board expectations, apply, or nominate someone, please contact Please include your resume and/or LinkedIn profile and complete the Application for Election to the Camp Fire Board Camp Fire Trustee APPLICATION Fillable PDF_Final.pdf 

Applications and resumes must be submitted by October 20, 2023.  

Potential candidates will be vetted in November 2023 with recommendations for new board members to be presented to the current National Board at their meeting during our National Leadership Conference on November 29, 2023. Elected candidates will begin their board service on January 1, 2024.  

13 Questions You Can Ask a Kid or Teen to Help Them Develop a STEM Mindset 

HK | Training & Development Manager, Camp Fire NHQ

This post was written by HK, Camp Fire National Headquarters’ Training & Development Manager.

HK Gilbert has been working with young people in the outdoors since they graduated from counselor-in-training as a camper! HK believes strongly in the power of trauma-informed, connection-focused youth work. They are passionate about teaching and supporting adults so they can be outstanding mentors who support young people in their authentic journeys!

When I was kid, like many kids, I wanted to be an inventor. I used to spend time dreaming up solutions to problems – usually in a Wallace and Gromit-inspired fashion (as complicated as possible, of course). A common experience for us would-be inventors is the moment our imaginations reach the barrier of our skills. Maybe we have an incredible idea – and yet, we don’t know how to accomplish it. All of a sudden, the reality of the incredible inventors we read about or learned about in school comes crashing down on us. We must not be geniuses – and all inventors are geniuses. Right? 

Many young people have an interest, even if it is just a tiny spark, in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). But often, they have a similar experience to mine. These subjects are taught with reverence to “genius” scientists and engineers. They often emphasize challenging equations, and they often underplay key factors such as teamwork and managing failure – essential elements of any great discovery or invention. Many times, young people won’t learn about scientists who look like them, especially if they are Black, Indigenous, and/or women. These conditions make kids believe that STEM is an exclusive, difficult, lonely pursuit that only geniuses can do – and that’s just not true! 

As a parent, guardian, or mentor to a young person, you can play an essential role in myth-busting STEM and developing the skills that will serve them in the future – whether they choose a STEM career or not! These transferable skills are essential to success in engineering, computer science, environmental science, the skilled trades, and more. While it can be easy to get overwhelmed with options like learning to code a specific coding language or participating in an engineering challenge, you can start by simply developing a STEM mindset.  

My favorite way to work with young people on STEM is to ask them questions. As adult mentors, we can challenge ourselves to step in less and ask questions more. I’ve compiled some great questions to get you started. I encourage you to use them in a wide range of contexts – during a science project or robotics build is an obvious time to deploy them, but you can also ask these while walking in the park, baking a cake, and even hanging out playing video games! 

Keep it open-ended and cultivate curiosity. Questions like these also encourage young people to access their existing knowledge and experience. 

brain with yellow details

1. What does that make you think of? 

2. Have you seen something like this before? Where? 

Encourage teamwork. Scientists and engineers almost always work in teams, and seeking help or other ideas is essential to the process of experimentation and design. 

lightbulb with red details

3. Can you ask someone else their thoughts? 

4. Who could help you solve that problem? 

5. Can I share with you one of my ideas? 

Direct their attention to the problem, not the solution. As adults, we can be tempted to solve challenges for young people. Instead of giving them the answer, you can still support them by asking these questions to direct their focus.  

question mark with blue details

6. Where is it not working?  

7. What could you do to solve that problem? 

Demystify scientific thinking. Asking questions, making predictions, and testing your ideas are key steps to the scientific method and engineering-design method. 

computer error message with green details

8. What do you think will happen if we do X?  

9. How would you do this differently? 

10. Why do you think that happened? 

Shift from consumer to maker. Oftentimes, young people (like all of us) have complaints about the technology around us – from apps, devices, and even things like backpacks or shoes. Simple questions can help young people reframe themselves to future engineers who could create new solutions. 

notebook with light blue details

11. What would you change about that?  

12. What do you wish that did? 

13. If you made a new (blank), what features would it have? 

Not only will these questions help develop a scientific way of thinking, but they are also opportunities to connect with young people and learn more about their experiences, interests, and opinions. I hope you enjoy these conversations with the youth in your life and if STEM turns out to be a spark, that you support their interest with even more questions and discussions! 

Want to learn more about STEM and Camp Fire? Check out our blog post about building on our STEM foundations.

Camp Fire Expands National Youth STEM Programming with Support from AT&T and 3M

Contributions will make it possible for Camp Fire to collaborate with Imagine Science to bring equitable science, technology, engineering, and math opportunities to more underserved young people nationwide.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Sept. 14, 2023)Building on its decades of science, technology, engineering and math programming, inclusive national youth development organization Camp Fire is launching a new collaboration with Imagine Science in Fall 2023. This collaboration is made possible through the support of a $500,000 contribution from AT&T and a $75,000 donation from 3M.

“These partnerships will help us scale a national STEM strategy, ramp up professional development for our network, and access new learning resources,” said Greg Zweber, Camp Fire National Headquarters CEO. “It also sets us up to collaborate with other organizations supporting young people with STEM and deepen our relationships with 3M and AT&T so we can have an even greater impact, together.”

AT&T Collaboration

As part of AT&T’s Connected Learning® initiative, AT&T aims to narrow the digital divide by providing high-quality digital learning resources that engage and support students in underserved communities and help them to fully participate in the digital world.

 This collaboration with AT&T supports online learning outside the classroom through Camp Fire’s national out-of-school time program. AT&T’s contribution means STEM and other engaging learning content from AT&T’s free digital learning platform, The Achievery, will be available to 10,000 students served by Camp Fire.

“We seek strategic collaborators like Camp Fire that we can support through multiple channels and reach more young people, so they have the opportunity for a better future,“ said Mylayna Albright, AVP for Corporate Social Responsibility at AT&T.  “We’re excited that The Achievery’s content will enhance Camp Fire’s current curriculum and create curriculum expansion packs to bolster programming in their out-of-school time programming for the 2023-2024 school year.”

During the 2023-2024 school year, Camp Fire will also join with AT&T to initiate an impact study with up to 2,000 youth on social  emotional learning development and conduct focus groups with teens to gather input and testimonials on The Achievery. AT&T’s contribution will also support educator engagement and training at NLC where Camp Fire National Headquarters will educate and share best practices on The Achievery with program directors and managers from 30 affiliates across the country.

Camp Fire affiliates won’t be tied to a specific curriculum but are encouraged to design programming that fits their local needs and opportunities. Camp Fire will share best practices and experiences with its network and use a set evaluation tool for continuous improvement.

“We’re excited to think about how our mission of connection to the outdoors, others and self integrates with STEM,” said Shawna Rosenzweig, Camp Fire National Headquarters President. “I think it’s going to be a really fun process to see what Camp Fire’s unique flavor is in this space. I think we’re going to find that so many of our practices and ways of working with young people are indeed STEM-related.”

3M Partnership

3M will support Camp Fire through $75,000 and a one-year STEM partnership, bringing Camp Fire into the Imagine Science collaboration. This will allow Camp Fire to launch an Imagine Science Community of Practice beginning with an initial pilot group of five affiliates this Fall. The $75K includes pass-through funding for local time and implementation as well as support for Camp Fire’s bi-annual National Leadership Conference (NLC) for the entire Camp Fire network.

“3M has been proud to invest in Camp Fire for years–through affiliates and the national office, from pro bono campaign support to board member positions. This new STEM collaboration is a great win, building on everything we’ve already done together” said Danette Andley, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer for the Health Care Business Group at 3M and National Board Chair for Camp Fire National Headquarters’ Board of Trustee. “I am thrilled to be working alongside this innovative organization and continue increasing Camp Fire’s reach, impact, and visibility through collaborations like this.”

Learn more about Camp Fire’s history of STEM learning and check out  The Achievery, a free digital library of STEM learning content. You can also use the QR code to the right to sign up and explore!

About 3M

3M believes science helps create a brighter world for everyone. By unlocking the power of people, ideas and science to reimagine what’s possible, our global team uniquely addresses the opportunities and challenges of our customers, communities, and planet. 

3Mgives improves lives and builds sustainable communities through social investments and thoughtful engagement of 3Mers worldwide. In fact, 3M was one of the first companies to establish a foundation in 1953, and since that time the company has contributed $1.6 billion in cash and in-kind contributions to community partners.

Learn how we’re working to improve lives and make what’s next at

About Philanthropy & Social Innovation at AT&T

We’re committed to advancing education, creating opportunities, strengthening communities and improving lives. As part of our companywide commitment to address the digital divide, we launched AT&T Connected Learning to invest in connectivity and technology, digital literacy and education solutions to help today’s learners succeed inside and outside of the classroom. Since 2008, we’ve committed to programs  that help millions of students across all 50 states and around the world, particularly those in underserved communities.

About Camp Fire

Growing up is hard. That’s why Camp Fire connects young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves. Founded in 1910, Camp Fire was the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls but today is an inclusive national youth development nonprofit that serves all young people. By creating safe spaces where young people can have fun and be themselves, its 46 affiliates in 24 states provide affirming, year-round, youth-driven experiences—school day programs, afterschool programs, leadership programs, and camps and outdoor education—that enable youth to develop essential skills that have long-term benefits and make a positive social impact on the world.

For more information please contact:

Erin K Risner, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters, 913.289.4773,

Building on our STEM Foundations

Have you ever had the experience of being fully in the moment … and only later realizing how well that presence set you up for the future? Maybe you got so in the flow of doing something you love that you didn’t realize how much you learned until months later. Maybe what felt like naturally following your interests eventually led you to a favorite place, a new hobby or even a career.  

At Camp Fire, we’re relentlessly focused on now. It’s one of the things that makes us different from other youth organizations! We care about how young people are connecting to themselves, nature, and each other today. We like to say that we’re not overly fixated on the future.  

But a funny thing happens when you do what’s best for now — being present, following your passions, prioritizing connection. Those seeds grow. And keep growing! That’s what has been happening with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning at Camp Fire: We’ve been planting seeds for more than a century and just recently naming the forest we’re thriving in. 

Embracing our STEM roots 

A few years ago, Camp Fire started surveying our affiliates about STEM learning practices.  

“One of the really interesting things we found was that a huge percentage of our programs were informally incorporating STEM,” said Shawna Rosenzweig, Camp Fire President. “But they didn’t consider their programs to be STEM programs.”  

For example, outdoor programs were teaching kids and teens to be curious about their observations in nature, to ask questions and to learn more about the ecosystems they live in. In other words, they were teaching young people to think like environmental scientists!  “But many of our direct delivery and program staff said they didn’t consider themselves to be STEM educators,” said Shawna, “even if they were facilitating STEM activities or leading environmental education programs.”   

Photo of young people hiking in the woods, crossing a stream, looking up at the camera
Camp Fire Georgia

Shawna and the leadership team saw that there was an opportunity to help both staff and program participants expand how we define STEM, get more strategic about STEM programming … and claim the name. 

Collaborating with Imagine Science 

To that end, Camp Fire is collaborating with Imagine Science, a nonprofit that works with youth programs to help bring equitable STEM opportunities to more than 18 million young people around the country.  

“This partnership helps us scale a national STEM strategy,” Shawna explained. “It also sets us up to collaborate with other organizations supporting young people.”  

Group of young people sitting under a tree participating in "career corner"
Camp Fire Central Oregon

Camp Fire and Imagine Science are going to build a community of practice across Camp Fire affiliates, beginning with an initial pilot group of five this fall. 

“We’ll be sharing best practices and experiences, participating in professional development together and using a set evaluation tool for continuous improvement,” explained Shawna. The affiliates won’t be tied to a specific curriculum but encouraged to design programming that fits their local needs and opportunities.   

“We’re excited to think about how our mission of connection to the outdoors, others and self-integrates with STEM,” said Shawna. “I think it’s going to be a really fun process to see what Camp Fire’s unique flavor is in this space. I think we’re going to find that so many of our practices and ways of working with young people are indeed STEM-related.”  

The Imagine Science collaboration is being supported by two corporate partnerships (official announcements coming soon!), which are helping fund professional development and providing access to other STEM learning resources. For example, The Achievery is a free digital library of STEM learning content. You can use the QR code below to sign up and explore.  

Imagining a STEM-ier present — and future 

Building on the STEM work Camp Fire affiliates are already doing has the double benefit of improving young people’s present and future. Camp Fire offers a safe place to explore new interests and develop new skills. A kid who has struggled in a science classroom in the past, for example, may get a second chance to discover a love for science through a Camp Fire nature program.  

“My number one hope and goal is that young people, especially those who have been historically excluded, see STEM careers as a pathway and part of their potential,” Shawna said. She also called out the potential for staff members to embrace their STEM educator credentials — and see where those skills might take them next.  

This kind of growth is called “workforce development” in some circles. Even though Camp Fire is now-focused, we know making the most of today also means better tomorrows ahead.  

Girls sitting on side of sand box smiling at the camera
Camp Fire North Shore

“Ultimately, we’re preparing young people for the workforce they want — and it’s not even necessarily the workforce that exists today,” Shawna said. “We are helping them develop crucial skills for success, however they define it, whether they are designing their own career path or landing their perfect first job.”  

Part 2: Green School Yards, Joy, Equity & Access 

photo of Catherine

This post is authored by Catherine Hubbard, Manager, Outdoor and Nature Programming | Camp Fire National Headquarters.

Note: If you didn’t catch Part 1: What is a Green School Yard, be sure to check it out.

We know that recess is meant to provide a physical and mental break in the day. However, when outdoor spaces are physically uncomfortable, dangerously overheated, and provide little to no relief from stress, they are actively working against the well-being of youth. Conversely, youth who attend school in green spaces report greater joy throughout the day, while teachers working at schools with green yards report that they no longer spend the first twenty minutes following recess trying to get their students resettled. (Schools that Heal: Designing with Mental Health in Mind, Claire Latané, 2021).  

It is also important to discuss equity. Across the country, school yards in lower-income, predominately Black and Brown communities are far more likely to be covered in concrete than schools in the largely white suburbs. Opportunities for nature-based play have increased in the past twenty years, but mostly in affluent communities where there is already easy access to nature. Giving youth green spaces in which to play, learn, and connect with their peers sends a message that they are worthy of beautiful spaces. At the same time, these spaces can cultivate the skills needed to nurture and care for the natural environment. It is imperative that we include youth across all demographics in these outdoor experiences. Public school yards can provide natural spaces for youth, and for families, in neighborhoods where nature is often limited. This is one simple yet effective way to address and begin to correct the deliberate lack of investment in green infrastructure in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  

To the right is a photo of my daughter’s former elementary school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the photo, you can see the standard blacktop so ubiquitous at public schools across the country. In the summer months, the black asphalt and lack of shade sends the temperature soaring (and this is Wisconsin; imagine a similar school yard in Texas, where there were over 40 consecutive days of 100+ degrees in the summer of 2023).  

Photo of a school yard, fully covered by black asphalt

And here is the new, central green space that was built in 2020. It can be used as an outdoor classroom, a peaceful respite from noise and activity, a place to climb, jump, and balance; and as a gathering spot or a place to play by members of the community on evenings and weekends.  

Covered picnic table with greenery planted all around it. No asphalt.
Sitting area made of logs and woodchips
Garden with raised beds where the asphalt used to be

It is important to recognize that very few green schoolyards around the country have been developed without the support of community partnerships. Most public schools do not have the finances, let alone the time, equipment, or grounds crew needed for the design and creation of green schoolyards without help. In Milwaukee, where I live, the Milwaukee Public School District has partnered with several municipal and non-profit groups to further the development of green schoolyards. These include Green and Healthy Schools Wisconsin, Green Schools Consortium of Milwaukee; and ReFlow, a non-profit organization dedicated to equitable water resource management and green infrastructure. 

As you read in Part 1, park systems, public land trusts, community gardens, nature centers, and even metropolitan sewage districts all have a personal stake in greening asphalt-covered playgrounds. Groups like Camp Fire – particularly affiliates running Out of School Time programs – are well-positioned to become valuable partners, as we can offer programming and even upkeep that would ensure these green yards are used and cared for when schools are not in session. Partnerships across multiple networks, including Camp Fire, can provide financial support, maintenance, curriculum, and even professional development for teachers, securing the ongoing and long-term success of these outdoor spaces. Funders in turn are more likely to take notice when approached by a dedicated and collaborative team made up of diverse organizations. More partners mean more money.  

Black and white photo of school yard with added flower and tress in color

Click here to watch a short video about the Nature Discovery Area & Inspire Trail in Lafayette, Colorado, which was built on the edge of the Alicia Sanchez International Elementary School. Partners in this outdoor space include the City of Lafayette, the Boulder Valley School District, Thorne Nature Experience, and Great Outdoors Colorado. It is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when multiple community partners come together to create a space that benefits children, families, and neighbors. 

A quick glance at the website of Green Schoolyards America shows regional organizations around the country doing this work. I encourage anyone interested in this topic to explore the Green Schoolyards website (where you can also find an upcoming online lecture series about forest school yard design), to peruse the resources listed below, and to reach out to any groups in your community that are already working to green up public-school grounds. I also urge you to keep an eye on the congressional bills that support healthy outdoor learning spaces, in particular Senator Martin Heinrich’s Living Schoolyards Act.  

The Living Schoolyards Act would establish an Outdoor Learning Spaces Grants program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, to allow schools or districts to create outdoor classrooms and learning spaces. Schools will be able to use these funds to install canopies, tents, open-sided structures, electricity, generators, furniture, storage, Wi-Fi nodes and charging stations, outdoor food and distribution facilities, gardens, and weather-related clothing. (Press release, Senator Martin Heinrich, 2022) 

While Green School Yards cannot be seen as a one-stop panacea for systemic racism, mental illness, environmental justice, or climate change, they are one very doable and effective response that can improve communities and make a difference.  

At Camp Fire, we are working to connect young people more deeply to themselves, to others, and to nature. According to the Trust for Public Land, if every schoolyard in the country were transformed into a green space, it would place more than 80 million people within ten minutes of nature.  Who wouldn’t prefer that over concrete?  


Articles & Research Studies 

Audio & Recorded Webinars: 

Part 1: What in the World is a “Green Schoolyard”? 

Black & White photo of Catherine against a green background

This post is authored by Catherine Hubbard, Manager, Outdoor and Nature Programming | Camp Fire National Headquarters.

Green schoolyards go by many names: Living School Yards, Forest Classrooms, Outdoor Learning Labs…But regardless of what we choose to call them, green schoolyards are part of a growing, national push to transform concrete-covered playgrounds into living, growing parks: parks designed with the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of students, teachers, and communities in mind.  

There are many proponents of green and living schoolyards.  

  • Climate activists see opportunities for green schoolyards to reduce urban heat islands, improve air quality, and model environmental sustainability.  
  • Municipal sewerage districts see ways for green schoolyards to reduce flooding and stormwater run-off, redirecting hundreds of thousands of gallons of water back into the ground rather than into local sewer systems.  
  • Agriculturalists see opportunities to teach food and farming techniques to future generations. 
  • Activists concerned with food scarcity and those working to alleviate food deserts see the potential for school sites to double as community gardens, creating opportunities for healthier, more connected neighbors. 
  • Health professionals recognize that green schoolyards promote better physical health for young people, providing fresh air and fostering full body movement. 
  • Mental health experts, as well as parents, teachers, and, most importantly, young people are perhaps the biggest advocates for green and healthy schools. They have long called for more welcoming, calming, and stress-reducing spaces, particularly in schools where the physical spaces are at odds with positive mental and emotional health.  

According to Claire Latané, author of Schools that Heal: Designing with Mental Health in Mind, green schoolyards have been shown to decrease bullying, nurture belonging, and even eliminate the social hierarchy that can develop when there is limited outdoor seating, little shade, and not enough for young people to do. In terms of academics, they can be intentionally designed to support project-based learning by offering amphitheaters, rain gardens, urban forests, and ethnobotany labs. In terms of school quality, they can improve student behavior, increase self-regulation, support inquiry-based learning, and contribute to greater job satisfaction and teacher retention.   

School playground with trees and flowers

Administrators at schools with green schoolyards report that these spaces frequently save money, particularly when it comes to air conditioning, heating, and outdoor maintenance. This is money that can often be put back into the schoolyards themselves, adding to the overall quality of the outdoor space.  

Finally, and most essentially, young people have made it clear that walking through metal detectors, participating in active shooter drills, attending classes with steel grates on the windows, and having short, twenty-minute recesses that take place atop hot, off-gassing asphalt does little to make them feel safe or healthy.  

So, what do green schoolyards have to do with Camp Fire? In part, I am writing this simply to bring more attention to the green schoolyards movement. I believe its momentum is gaining, and that affiliates around the country will soon begin to see more innovations and development in green schoolyards in their own communities, if they have not yet already.   

But Camp Fire is also poised to be an active participant in discussions surrounding green schoolyards. Camp Fire affiliates represent a broad range of learning environments and many offer programming outside of traditional school hours. Not only do Camp Fire affiliates have their own stories and wisdom about the benefits and challenges of outdoor education that are worth bringing to the table, but they could also use these spaces, and help care for them, when schools are not in session.  

Green schoolyards are very much aligned to the Camp Fire mission of helping young people connect more deeply to themselves, to others, and to nature. We also see their potential for greater joy and increased equity in communities across the country. I will explore this more in Part 2, coming next week. 


Articles & Research Studies 

Audio & Recorded Webinars: 

Teva Partners with Youth Development Organization Camp Fire to Celebrate International Youth Day 2023

The Footwear Brand Will Donate $25,000 to Help Connect Future Generations to Communities and Nature Through Camp Fire Programs in the U.S.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AUG. 7,2023)– Inclusive national youth development organization Camp Fire announces its partnership with Teva®, a division of Deckers Brands (NYSE: DECK) for International Youth Day on Saturday, August 12, 2023.

To celebrate International Youth Day, Teva will donate 100% of the marked retail price from sandal sales on August 12—up to a total guaranteed donation of $25,000—to Camp Fire, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves.

“In our view, there’s nothing more important to the development of young people than to have a connection to and experiences in nature,” said Anders Bergstrom, Vice President, Global GM of Teva Footwear at Deckers Brands. “It celebrates their humanity, allows for wild play, and draws them together as a community. We love what Camp Fire stands for, and wanted to directly support their mission and the young people they represent across the country for this year’s International Youth Day and our 2023 Giveback with a Purpose Campaign.”  

Camp Fire was founded in 1910 and envisions a world where all young people have equitable opportunities to thrive. Camp Fire works to remove barriers to its programs—overnight and day camp, afterschool, and more—and create safe spaces where all young people can have fun and be themselves. 

“It’s exciting to work with partners like Teva that also prioritize innovation, self-discovery, and community and nature connection and that also care about environmental stewardship and justice, ” said Greg Zweber, Camp Fire National Headquarters CEO. Together, we’ll support youth across our 46 affiliates in 24 states.”

This campaign will run one day only – Sat. Aug. 12, 2023; shop to support at

# # #

About Teva®

In 1984, Teva created the world’s first sport sandal on the banks of the Grand Canyon. The brand outfits free-spirited adventure-seekers all over the world with versatile, modern outdoor footwear. In 2020, Teva committed to reducing the brand’s environmental impact by ensuring 100% of its iconic straps are made with recycled plastic, so future generations can continue exploring the wild world around them. Learn more about Teva, a division of Deckers Brands, at or follow @Teva.

About Camp Fire 

Growing up is hard. That’s why Camp Fire connects young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves. Founded in 1910, Camp Fire was the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls but today is an inclusive national youth development nonprofit that serves all young people. By creating safe spaces where young people can have fun and be themselves, its 46 affiliates in 24 states provide affirming, year-round, youth-driven experiences—school day programs, afterschool programs, leadership programs, and camps and outdoor education—that enable youth to develop essential skills that have long-term benefits and make a positive social impact on the world. 

For more information please contact:

Erin K Risner, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters, 913.289.4773,

Camp Fire’s approach to trauma: What it means to be trauma-informed

You’ve heard us say it many times: Growing up is hard. That’s the why behind everything we do. But when we say hard…just how hard are we talking?  

Right now, really hard. Like, clinically hard. We’re in a youth mental health crisis, and one of the underlying causes is trauma.   

What is trauma?  

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network gives us a simple definition of trauma:  

“When a child feels intensely threatened by an event [they] are involved in or witnesses, we call that event a trauma.”

Trauma has many sources: Child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, community violence, bullying, medical events, disasters or other emergencies, loss of a loved one, racism/discrimination, family instability, worldwide pandemics — the list goes on. Researchers are even beginning to make the link between climate change and trauma.  

Not every stressful event automatically leads to trauma, and individual circumstances (age, cultural beliefs, the presence or absence of a support system, etc.) around an event may lead to differing effects in different people. 

 “A particular event may be experienced as traumatic for one individual and not for another,” explains the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

What happens to us in early childhood influences the people we become. “[But] it isn’t just something that happens to kids,” said Nikki Roe Cropp, Camp Fire’s Senior Director, Program Effectiveness. “It’s a human experience.”   

Many of us experience adversity that has a lasting impact on our physical and emotional health — no matter our age. The book What Happened to You? by brain development and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perr and Oprah Winfrey suggests healing can begin with a shift to asking, “What happened to you?” rather than “What’s wrong with you?” or “Why are you behaving that way?”  

What happened to us in childhood is a powerful predictor of our risk for health problems down the road and offers scientific insights into the patterns of behaviors so many struggle to understand.  

What does trauma do to the brain?  

When we experience something traumatic, our brain stem takes over to help us survive. Our stress hormones kick in and enable us to do whatever needs to be done to get through (fight, flight, freeze, fawn). The cognitive and emotional processing parts of our brains take a back seat.  

These are helpful responses in the moment, but when the danger is past, the brain and body aren’t always able to shift back into a non-reactive mode. Our brains can stay on high alert, keeping us stuck in those emergency reaction patterns, making us act, feel and think in ways that others find hard to understand.

That stuckness is particularly damaging to developing brains. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network explains:  

“When a child is experiencing traumatic stress, these reactions interfere with the child’s daily life and ability to function and interact with others. … Without treatment, repeated childhood exposure to traumatic events can affect the brain and nervous system and increase health-risk behaviors (e.g., smoking, eating disorders, substance use, and high-risk activities). Research shows that child trauma survivors can be more likely to have long-term health problems (e.g., diabetes and heart disease) or to die at an earlier age.”  

The key phrase here is “without treatment.” Trauma may be almost unavoidable, but it’s definitely not untreatable. There are many evidenced-based treatments for traumatic stress, and there are many ways that those of us who aren’t mental health professionals can help, too.  

We call those ways a “trauma-informed approach.”  

What is a trauma-informed approach to working with youth? 

“Trauma-informed care is being aware of what young people are bringing with them,” said Ben Matthews, Camp Fire’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access Manager.  

Indeed, SAMSHA defines a trauma-informed approach as:  

A program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.” 

SAMHSA lays out six principles for trauma-informed programs:  

  • Safety 
  • Trustworthiness and transparency 
  • Peer support 
  • Collaboration and mutuality 
  • Empowerment, voice and choice 
  • Cultural, historical and gender issues 

How does Camp Fire use trauma-informed principles? 

  1. Trauma-informed principles are embedded into our framework. SAMHSA’s trauma-informed principles line up well with Camp Fire’s values.  
    “Trauma-informed care is very much baked into our program framework,” said Nikki, pointing to Camp Fire’s emphasis on safe interactions, connected relationships, youth voice and inclusivity. “These things are good for everybody, but they are particularly valuable for kiddos who have experienced trauma or toxic stress.” 
    Many of Camp Fire’s foundational practices — time in nature, routines and rituals, emotional check-ins, relationship building, volunteering — are now known to be trauma-informed tools that can help release toxic stress. Camp Fire also offers some specific programming for young people who have shared experiences of trauma, including El Tesoro de la Vida Grief Camp.     
  1. We train our staff on trauma-informed approaches. Camp Fire’s national Learning Lab has a variety of courses to help staff learn trauma-informed strategies, and affiliates do their own training as well.  
    “It’s so important to understand the effects of stress and trauma on the brain and how that impacts behavior,” said Nikki. “We can look at behavior through the lens of trauma and unmet needs. It’s not, ‘What’s wrong with this kid?’ It’s, ‘What happened to this kiddo in the past and how does that inform what they need right now?’”  
    Part of being a trauma-informed organization is not only training staff, but supporting their mental health. “Providing support for our staff gives them the capacity to support young people,” said Ben, who shared that Camp Fire National Headquarters builds extra mental health time into every pay period.  
    “We need to connect our staff to themselves, others and nature before they can provide that for kids, too,” agreed NIkki. “With trauma-informed care, you have to continuously work on and care for yourself.”  
  1. We do our historical/community trauma homework. “Even if we can’t be fully prepared for what every single individual is bringing in, we can know what historic trauma a community might have experienced,” said Ben. “We can educate ourselves prior to folks showing up.” 
    Camp Fire began adding community-specific trauma training to our toolbox alongside our CAMPER grant work to improve camp access for historically excluded groups. Camp Fire also partners closely with organizations like Transplaining for Camps, S’more Summer, The Trevor Project, the National Indian Education Association to learn how to support campers who might have experienced trauma because of their identities. 
  1. We partner with other trauma-informed organizations. On a national level, Camp Fire has worked with Let’s Empower, Advocate, and Do Inc. (LEAD), the Alliance for Camp Health, On Our Sleeves and others to both educate staff and further conversations about youth trauma and mental health.   
    Our affiliates also form relationships with local organizations for both training and resource sharing. “For example, Camp Fire Green Country works with the local LGBTQ2s+ organization and the shelter that serves youth experiencing homelessness,” said Ben. “They work with these folks to know what the situation is for young people accessing their services and they also do cross training for each other.”   
  1. We resist retraumatization by creating safe spaces. Camp Fire’s first priority is making sure young people are safe, both physically and emotionally. Camp Fire has extensive child safety and protection protocols, and many summer camps now have a designated inclusion specialist or team ready to address issues that impact emotional safety as they arise. 
    “It’s also important to recognize that Camp Fire has been part of trauma for particular communities,” said Ben, referencing past practices of cultural appropriation that the organization has been working to identify, address and repair.  
    “Our work to end cultural appropriation is a good example of learning how we harmed and turning that knowledge into program practices that minimize the potential for re-traumatization,” Nikki said.    
  1. We connect young people and their families to trauma-treatment resources. When young people are dealing with serious trauma after-effects, Camp Fire helps connect them to professionals who can help. Programs held in schools collaborate with the school’s mental health staff. A few camps have social workers on staff, and all programs have local mental health resource lists and crisis contacts on hand to share with kids and families who need them.  

Our trauma-informed knowledge and practices will grow as we continue to find ways to help connect kids to nature, others and themselves. We may not be able to make growing up easy, but with trauma-informed approaches, we can make it kinder, more connected and full of hope.    


Jack Dorsey’s #startsmall Invests $1 Million into Inclusive Youth Development Organization Camp Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (JULY 20, 2023)– Jack Dorsey, Block Head, Chairman, and co-founder of Block, Inc., donates $1 million of unrestricted funding through his philanthropic initiative #startsmall to support inclusive national youth development nonprofit Camp Fire and its long-standing mission: connecting young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves

#startsmall specifically focuses on global crisis relief, girls’ health and education, and open internet development. Recognizing Camp Fire’s roots as the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls founded in 1910, #startsmall’s investment will help scale programming for girls and all young people across the country. 

Fourteen months before COVID-19 brought much of the world to a standstill, Camp Fire launched a pilot program with an ambitious effort to expand accessibility, meaningful participation, and equitable representation of youth historically excluded from the summer camp experience. This included special attention to ensuring that youth with disabilities, youth from economically underserved backgrounds, and LGBTQ2S+ youth can fully pursue and benefit from high-quality outdoor experiences. #startsmall’s investment will also help Camp Fire scale this program beyond summer camps, so it can offer it year-round, as well as build organizational capacity, remove barriers, and expand access to its programs across its 46 affiliates in 24 states. 

“#startsmall’s investment will positively impact the lives of thousands of young people across the country who may not historically have had access to our programs,” said Greg Zweber, Camp Fire National Headquarters CEO. “We are excited to leverage this grant as catalytic, helping us build momentum and new partnerships around the critical work we are doing to best support today’s youth and families.”

Growing up is hard. Young people are in the middle of a mental health crisis–especially teen girls. In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on the mental health challenges kids, teens, and young adults are facing. Then, in 2023, Murthy issued yet another advisory: Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation along with recommended solutions and the healing effects of social connection. According to the research, loneliness is, sadly, a better predictor of early death than smoking, obesity, or cancer. We also know that students are still struggling to catch up after pandemic disruptions. Although the past school year helped young learners chip away at the COVID-19 learning gap, many students are still behind. Math and reading scores remain lower than normal. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous students are more likely to face pandemic academic challenges. According to The Trevor Project, youth identifying as LGBTQ2S+ or questioning their sexuality face multiple threats to their mental well-being resulting from COVID-19. The loss of positive social interactions caused by school closings, access to supportive communities, and housing instability– all contribute to feelings of isolation and despair. 

But the good news is we know what helps. According to research, developmental relationships and access to nature and the outdoors have all been recognized as an antidote for loneliness and mental health impacts. That’s why Camp Fire utilizes these powerful avenues to foster inclusive environments where all kids feel seen, heard, accepted, and invested in for who they are today, and who they want to be in the future. The measurable benefits to youth are positive identity and a sense of belonging, creative and critical thinking, social skills, and self-management, all elements of human thriving that result from feeling a sense of connection to themselves, to their peers, to supportive adults, and to nature. These benefits accrue not only to participating youth, but to their families, schools, and communities in long-term outcomes such as increased pro-social behaviors, academic success, job and career readiness, general health and mental health well-being, and a life-long love of the outdoors.

We are grateful for #startsmall’s catalytic investment to support Camp Fire’s mission and expand opportunities for young people to thrive.



#startsmall is Jack Dorsey’s philanthropic initiative to fund global crisis relief, girls’ health and education, and open internet development. Dorsey transferred $1 billion (28% of his wealth) to #startsmall in 2020.


Growing up is hard. That’s why Camp Fire connects young people to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves. Founded in 1910, Camp Fire was the first nonsectarian, multiracial organization for girls but today is an inclusive national youth development nonprofit that serves all young people. By creating safe spaces where young people can have fun and be themselves, its 46 affiliates in 24 states provide affirming, year-round, youth-driven experiences—school day programs, afterschool programs, leadership programs, and camps and outdoor education—that enable youth to develop essential skills that have long-term benefits and make a positive social impact on the world. 

For more information please contact:

Erin K Risner, Senior Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters, 913.289.4773,

Dear young people,

We know things are tough right now. We recognize that many of you are scared. With legislation across the country attempting to control what you can read, the art you’re allowed to see and create, what sports and clubs you’re able to participate in, and even what healthcare you and your families can access legally or safely, it can feel like everyone is against you. We’re here to say we see you, you are incredibly important, and we care about you.

2SLGBTQ+ youth in states across the country who are facing attacks by lawmakers, we see you and believe you when you tell us who you are. We support your ability and right to discover yourself, find community, and thrive. Even as the Supreme Court decides to allow businesses to refuse 2SLGBTQ+ people service if it does not align with their faith, we promise to never use faith as a barrier to deny you access to our services, resources, and support. We support and affirm youth and adults of all religions and non-religion.

To Black, Brown, and Indigenous youth who see their histories and stories being silenced and erased, we hear you and will continue to stand with you and hold space for you to lift your voices. We will be here to encourage and empower you to seek higher education even as the Supreme Court denies the value of your lived experiences and the historical exploitation, exclusion, and erasure of Black and Brown people within higher education institutions by removing affirmative action.

Camp Fire and the National Indian Education Association are committed to listening to and learning from you. We are committed to educating ourselves and our colleagues about what you need from adults in today’s world to feel safe to be yourself and to thrive. We are committed to showing up for you in our afterschool programs, our day and overnight camps, in your communities, and across the country. We will use our individual and collective power as organizations to fight for your rights as young people. This includes showing up to your rallies, contacting our legislators, sharing our power and platforms with you, and supporting bills like Community Mental Wellness and Resilience Act of 2023 and Oklahoma SB429.  

Please know that there are not just adults in the world who care about you, there are entire organizations that are dedicated to connecting you with yourself, with others, and with your communities.