Summer Seminars for Women finds community, renewal online

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The American Youth Foundation continues to adapt its programs to online platforms. After the success of Invincible Summer, the Summer Seminars for Women community also gathered on Zoom and Canvas to socialize, reconnect, and renew their spirits.

Summer Seminars for Women originated at Miniwanca in 1988. Each July, women gather on the sand dunes for a five-day experience focused around reflection, community building, and retreat. During this unique season, the pandemic shifted SSW events online, and the resulting sessions drew the most participants in the history of the program. The volunteer coordinating team made up of Bridget Stack, Holley Young, Kim Scartelli, and Shannon O’Toole Kuhlman gave their creativity and leadership to an entirely new way of building community.

From July 22 to 26, AYF presented the 32nd annual SSW in a fully virtual format with the theme of Living the Mission at Home, consisting of opening and closing circles, a social night, and two thought-provoking seminars.

These sessions were free and open to the public, and they saw daily audiences of 40 to 80 participants. One highlight of SSW was AYF President Anna Kay Vorsteg’s seminar, “The Four Folds for Today,” which offered an update to the timeless philosophy of balanced living.

“Anna Kay’s session put forth a dare to meet three unique challenges of this moment — the pandemic, racial injustice, and climate change — all through the lens of being guided by one’s values,” said Young. “To see this group of women take time, reflect, and then open up in conversation really underscored how there is a need for spaces like these that give time to and honor the process of looking inside and engaging with the world.”

After four days of connection and renewal, several participants were moved to give back to the AYF in gratitude for the virtual program. The AYF launched the SSW Giving Challenge with the goal of $10,000 during a one-month giving drive – and the community far surpassed it, donating more than $31,000 to the AYF.

“We were humbled and grateful for the generosity of the SSW women,” said senior director of advancement Liz Marshall. “These gifts reflect their deep care for this organization and its future, as an investment in the experience of the next generation.”

Miniwanca Girls Camp alumni can join in a similar spirit of renewal and connection during the Labor Day Girls Camp Reunion Sept. 3 to 6. Learn more here. 

View highlights from the virtual program: