Advancing Equity at Camp

Inclusion has always been a value at Camp Fire, and throughout the past century, we have been learning more and more about what inclusion looks like. A big part of that journey is creating equitable opportunities for all young people at camp. Below are two articles written by Camp Fire National Headquarters staff about our recent efforts to create equitable and inclusive spaces for all young people at our summer camps.

Written by Ben Matthews for ACA’s September 2021 issue of Camping Magazine

“‘We’re all girls here! You shouldn’t be embarrassed!'”

“But, oh my, was I embarrassed! I couldn’t even begin to name all the ways I felt embarrassment and shame in girls’ bathrooms, changing areas, and cabins. Looking back now, it’s still hard to determine how much of my discomfort was caused by being fat, being attracted to girls, feeling like I wasn’t a girl, or the constant questioning of where everyone else thought I belonged. Even when there was one stall I could wait in line for, that didn’t mean everyone else changing around me made me panic any less.

Like many other transgender (Trans*; an umbrella term that refers to many different identities within the gender identity spectrum) people, I eventually stopped using public bathrooms altogether, even at school. I knew if I didn’t eat or drink anything all day, I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom and could avoid causing a scene when someone perceived me as being in the “wrong bathroom.” My grades dropped. I skipped field trips and overnights. I even quit softball after 10 years when faced with zero-privacy locker rooms. I couldn’t answer honestly when asked why, because I’d have to answer that I liked girls and/or that I wasn’t one — not safe options in a rural, religious community. It wasn’t until much later that I realized you don’t have to be Queer, or an adult, to want or deserve privacy and to feel safe…”

Written by Hannah Patterson for American Evaluation Association’s AEA365 Youth Focused Evaluation TIG Week

Hello! I am Hannah Patterson, the Evaluation Manager at Camp Fire National Headquarters.

Camp Fire National Headquarters has embarked on an initiative with the goal of ensuring that all youth participating in overnight camp feel welcome, emotionally affirmed and physically comfortable. Our evaluations for this project centered on empowering youth to share their own program experiences and to create more equitable programs.

This project was designed to improve accessibility and inclusion for:

  • Youth who are LGBTQ2S+
  • Youth from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Youth with disabilities, both visible and invisible.

The initiative began in the Summer of 2019 when we facilitated focus groups and story board activities created by Hello Insight at ten overnight Camp Fire camps. We also collected surveys from young people that focused on understanding the current contexts and barriers affecting accessibility and inclusion at the ten camps.

September 15, 2021