Staff Spotlight: Miniwanca’s Brianna Moynihan

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Miniwanca Assistant Director of Camps Brianna Moynihan has attended summer camp for as long as she remembers: as a camper, then a counselor, and a director. She is passionate about connecting youth with nature and developing those that work with youth. She has a degree from Michigan State University in child development and organizational leadership. Brianna has spent her career facilitating spaces where everyone belongs, taking risks are encouraged, and differences are celebrated. Learn why she wanted to join the Miniwanca team, what her favorite camp activity was as a kid, and why you’ll see her at Polar Bear every morning this summer.

This is your first summer at Miniwanca. Why did you want to join the full-time team?

“When I first came to Miniwanca for an interview, I was immediately drawn to the physical space. Even though it was the middle of the fall and campers had been gone for months, you could still feel something special in the air and sacred in the spaces. It is so beautiful here.

“But what really hooked me was meeting the fearless leaders of Miniwanca, Girls Camp Director Bethany Wise and Director of Miniwanca Griffin Vogler. I could immediately feel their passion for youth development and camp. They were incredibly authentic, genuine, and funny. After that very first interview, I knew I wanted to be a part of this team and help facilitate the Miniwanca magic that’s been happening for 100 years.”

You grew up attending other summer camps. What was one of your favorite summer camp activities as a child?

“Capture the Flag was always my favorite camp game! I love everything teamwork, strategy, and camp spirit.”

How did your childhood experiences at a summer camp shape you as an adult?

“The first thing it shaped was my career choice! I have always said I want to be a camp counselor when I grow up (I still say that). All the camps I have been part of create an environment where people can be 100 percent their authentic selves. I think that has shaped me into a person unafraid to be themself and enter unfamiliar situations confidently.”

How does Miniwanca differ from other camps you’ve participated in or worked at?

“Our programing is very intentionally rooted in the mission of helping youth discover their best selves. It’s not so much about the activities or helping participants develop a certain hard skill but more about using the activities to challenge participants to be brave, think creatively, develop connections with others and nature, and explore their values and beliefs.

“The American Youth Foundation also has a community unlike any other. The passion for Miniwanca and Merrowvista is so palpable among our extremely connected alums, volunteers, participants, and staff network. It is simply infectious.”

What about the AYF’s approach to youth development resonates with you most?

“There are so many things about the AYF’s approach to youth development that deeply resonate with me. But one thing that I feel passionate about is facilitating safe risk taking. So many children live in a highly regulated environment and are discouraged from taking risks in their daily lives because of how the world is now. But at Camp Miniwanca, we create an environment where taking risks is encouraged. Where starting a fire is celebrated (and well supervised!), where we acknowledge that being brave means being scared but doing the thing anyway.”

Outside of camp, what are some of your favorite things to do in your downtime?

“I have a 6-year-old retriever/Australian shepherd mix named Scout who I adore and spend all my down time with. We love to roller blade, swim in Lake Michigan, and dig holes on the beach.”

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Don’t bring an umbrella to brainstorm.” – Ted Lasso

What are you most looking forward to in your first summer at Miniwanca?

“I told many people I am going to do Polar Bear every single day. I think a lot of people doubt me. I am excited to prove them wrong.”