Mulcahy fellows gather for first in-person retreat

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Ten members of the Mulcahy Fellowship gathered on the dunes of Miniwanca for their first retreat this month.

The Mulcahy Fellowship is an initiative to intentionally honor, support, and uplift seasonal staff who identify as historically underrepresented members in AYF program communities. The goal is to address the lack of diversity in leadership positions within AYF programs and recognize that individuals with these identities provide more emotional labor than other camp staff.

The AYF launched the Fellowship in 2019 with an inaugural class of five individuals who worked as seasonal summer staff at Merrowvista, Miniwanca, and National Leadership Conference. Today, there are 25 fellows.

Director of Community Life, Diversity, and Inclusion Ambrean Ford said the retreat, which she hopes will take place annually before summer programs, give fellows a chance to acclimate to camp before staff training.

“The Mulcahy Fellowship retreat gives them an opportunity to bond meet each other and for older fellows to mentor the class of 2022,” she said. “We also did some long-term planning for the next five years, laying out our vision for the future of the fellowship.”

Ford said the fellows hope to offer a future program for youth from the Detroit area. “This mini-camp’s purpose is to allow kids to experience outdoors and nature in a positive way with leaders who look like them and who hold similar identities,” she explained.

Ford, who is also a 2019 Mulcahy Fellow, said the retreat helped her realize how important it is for this community to gather in person. “People need that in-person connection so we can realize we are more than folks on a screen. The retreat was a great reminder that it is important to hold affinity spaces where folks who have similar identities are connected and enjoying each other’s company. When you can actually be together and share those moments in person, you feel you know someone’s authentic self.”

The fellows built on the strength of their time together and left the retreat energized to step into their staff roles and share in the leadership of camp communities.