By Catherine Klene
“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”
This popular quote inspired the name of AYF’s free online summer programming, but the lesser-known half of Albert Camus’ words sparked the AYF programming team’s mission:
“And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”
In a year marked by a pandemic and calls for social justice, Miniwanca program coordinator Jensen Pennock said it was important for campers to find that strength in community this summer, even if it can’t be in person.
“We have that quote on the wall in our office at Miniwanca, and when we walk past it in winter, it reminds us that we hold summer inside us,” Pennock said. “Even in the darkest of times, we have ourselves and we have community.”
Invincible Summer, which will take place weekdays July 6 through July 31, isn’t meant to replace the traditional summer camp experience, but rather to supplement the work campers do each year to become their best selves and to connect with their communities.
Merrowvista director of camp programs Chris Wellens said while Merrowvista and Miniwanca are special, beautiful places, the magic of camp comes from community, not a fixed location.
“You don’t have to be at camp to be your best self and live the values of camp,” Wellens said. “Being your best self is only really useful if we can live those practices everywhere.”
Invincible Summer programming designed to connect participants and help them put the values of best self into action. Options include:
Large community events These online gatherings will be open to anyone via Zoom and will feature familiar programs like opening and closing councils, Night’s Doings, Evening Reflection and more.
Small group opportunities Campers from Trailblazers, Four Trails, and Avail communities will receive email invitations to gather on Zoom with a camp staffer and peers to chat, play games, and reconnect.
Weekly interest groups Campers can sign up for fun activities like crafts, yoga, and more, led by a camp staffer. Each program will meet online twice weekly for about an hour at a time.
Inspired Best Selves This program is designed to inspire participants to learn more about who they are and how they plan to live as their best selves this summer.
Grab-and-go activities Each week, campers can access activities to complete away from screens that will be available on our website.
My Virtual Mission Anyone can join the AYF in a race to complete the distance equivalent of a Four Trails experience by logging their physical miles on this online platform.
“Our goal is to not have kids in front of screens all summer,” Wellens said. “The screen time will serve as a touchpoint to check in for tools and connection, but then we encourage them to explore the spaces around them and build new routines and skills, just like they would at camp.”
To encourage this development, AYF director of program development Lauren Abrami said campers will have the opportunity to earn virtual badges and take part in a Founder Medal challenge through activities posted on Canvas, an online learning platform.
“There will be different badges they can earn, different challenges they can undertake,” she said. “Sometimes, they may earn a badge for joining us for a Zoom call to engage with their friends from camp, but then they’ll complete assigned tasks offline to earn their physical Founder Medal at the end of the summer. We’re encouraging balance.”
That’s also why campers will have the flexibility to attend as much or as little programming as they’d like. Pennock said they recognize not everyone can commit to five full days of programming each week, and she encouraged them to join for whatever interests them most.
“You can choose what you want to do,” she said. “Maybe you just want to start your day with the Call to Community. That’s great, and it’s only 20 minutes on Zoom each morning.”
Abrami said she’s most looking forward to hearing what youth have to say about the world right now. “I can’t wait to see camper faces, to hear the voices of our kids, particularly at this time,” she said. “Even though we’re still on our screens, my hope is it feels a little different, that they can play and connect in a way they weren’t able to during the school year.”