Creating A Sense of Belonging

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Women gathered sitting on the floor of room with wood and stone walls

By Dana Rieck

Dozens of participants attended the Summer Seminars for Women this year, a three-day program that for 35 years has created an intergenerational space for women to learn, relax and reflect at Miniwanca.

This year’s program was held from July 26 to 30 and centered around the theme of belonging — a theme that had women sharing their experiences, having fun together, finding a sense of community and learning how to extend that same feeling to others.

Holley Young, director of adult programs, noted this year’s theme felt relevant to her team, given how fractious and divisive the world can feel.

“There was an incredible amount of intention with our coordinating team as it related to the theme of belonging, but also as it related to what we hold dear, which is a sense of radical hospitality and really extending welcome,” Young said.

This was the second year the program was held in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic, Young said, and there were 44 in-person participants and 10 virtual participants. Of those participants, 40% were attending the summer program for the first time.

“I loved that we had a lot of new people because it’s so enriching to have new energy and new people and new perspectives come in,” Young said. “And I think that generally stood out for myself and other people who have been coming to Miniwanca for a long time.”

Speakers during the three-day program were all affiliated in some way with the AYF, which allowed them to thread AYF’s organizational values throughout their presentations. The presenters included Janelle Rienstra Jones, an actor, coach and educator; Ambrean “Bre” Ford, a social worker and equity advocate; and Charlotte Cabrol, a former Older Girls camper at Miniwanca and previous performance improvement leader.

Along with the seminars and learning, Young notes that the women had fun and found true moments of joy while watching beautiful sunsets and exploring all that Miniwanca has to offer.

“We know that every year is going to be different,” Young said of the program. “And somehow this year just seemed to be this epitome of awesomeness. So, for next year, I would just hope for more of the same — I would hope that there are the same elements put in with a lot of intention from our coordinating team and a lot of meaning-making to our program.”