Commitment to DEIB

The AYF is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.

The American Youth Foundation invites all people to be their own best selves. We seek to create communities where no one is excluded because of who they are. We enthusiastically welcome staff and participants with diverse backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities that align with our mission and values. The AYF continually assesses our practices and policies through cultural awareness and inclusivity. Our community understands that we are lifelong learners.

We value each person’s right to fully experience our programs free from prejudice and harassment based on race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, or other aspects of their identity. We honor and welcome campers and staff of all gender identities, including transgender and gender-expansive individuals.

We believe diversity in our communities enriches the program experience for all, provided everyone feels safe to be their authentic . We welcome the expression of different ideas and perspectives that do not infringe on others’ right to authentically exist.

All reasonable efforts will be made to accommodate participants with different experiences, conditions, strengths, and abilities. Our goal is to include as many participants as possible; however, we are limited in what we can provide in terms of medical care and our current physical sites. We partner with families in a thorough medical review process that looks at both physical and mental, emotional health to determine if we can safely serve their child.

DEIB Values

The AYF is home to all who dare to live in intentionally inclusive community: who see diversity as necessary for growth, equity as a practice to solving historical systemic problems, and inclusion as a step toward creating a vibrant and thriving space where all can belong.

The American Youth Foundation values…

• Embracing diversity as the active, lifelong practice of welcoming and celebrating the uniqueness of all individuals. There is inherent value and dignity in every human life. The AYF community intentionally seeks to invite people who hold a broad range of identities and backgrounds as we build new communities each year.

• Equity as the distribution of resources to individuals according to their specific needs. The AYF will actively pursue equity for all in ways that honor individual needs while addressing systematic disadvantages that limit access to our programs. We will support community members by continuously reviewing our approach to programming and the experiences we offer.

• Inclusion as intentionally valuing all lived experiences. Inclusive communities allow everyone to be their genuine, best selves. We expect each person in our communities to be open to exploring differences, as long as those differences honor others’ right to belong.

• Belonging as the genuine feeling of being mutually welcomed, accepted, respected, valued, and empowered. Through the AYF’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will work together to create experiences where everyone is invited to be their true, authentic, best selves.

Action Steps

DEI Committee

Established in 2022, the DEI Committee will advise our organization in the continuous integration of diversity, equity, and inclusion into all aspects of the American Youth Foundation. This includes creating a strategic plan that will act as a road map and that will ensure leadership takes actionable steps toward furthering the AYF’s commitment to DEI.

DD Danforth Burlin (she/hers)

Mads “Earl” Chomentowski (they/she)

Andi Van Cleve (she/hers)

Romuald Dugue (he/his)

Gray Danforth

Colleen Green (ikwe, ella, her)

Kareem Hakim (he/his)

Dr. Julia Wilkins Kohrmann (she/hers)

Andy Mulcahy (he/his)

Hannah Patterson (she/hers/they/their)

Jackson Pincus (he/his)

Jennifer Rhodes (she/hers)

Mary Dee Schmidt (she/hers)

Joseph “Joe” Tang (he/his/they)

Ayn Dietrich Williams (she/hers)

The committee will work closely with:

Liz Marshall, AYF Vice President

Dusty Clitheroe, Strength Perspective

Polly Williams, Strength Perspective

Strength Perspective Partnership

The AYF is taking a critical look at its history, traditions, and structure. Education is the first step forward, and we’re pleased to partner with Strength Perspective founders Jen (Dusty) Clitheroe and Polly Williams. They are working with the AYF board and staff to help our organization grow in diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and leadership.

Mulcahy Fellowship

The Mulcahy Fellowship intentionally honors, supports, and uplifts 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 our programs and recognize that individuals with these identities provide more emotional labor than other camp staff.

Gender Inclusion

AYF programs welcome people to discover and explore who they are and who they want to be. We offer three summer camps with different focuses to meet the needs of a variety of campers.

How does the AYF serve people of all genders?

In New Hampshire, Merrowvista welcomes campers who identify as male, female, transgender, and gender expansive to interact in community together.

In Michigan, Miniwanca offers two camps separated by gender. Boys Camp welcomes campers who identify as male and gender expansive, including transgender youth. Girls Camp welcomes campers who identify as female and gender expansive, including transgender youth.

During all AYF Community and School Programs at Merrowvista and Miniwanca, we work with our school and community partners to support participants and chaperones of all identities.

Why are the Miniwanca camps separated by gender?

Our gender-separate programming creates affinity spaces that empower youth to examine and learn more about themselves and all aspects of their gender and identity.

Boys Camp welcomes campers who identify as male and gender expansive, including transgender youth. We focus on healthy masculinity and exploring what it means to them to be male, recognizing that not all members of the community identify as male.

Girls Camp welcomes campers who identify as female and gender expansive, including transgender youth. We focus on empowering girls and women and exploring what it means to them to be female, recognizing that not all members of the community identify as female.

At Miniwanca, we seek to create communities where participants can challenge male and female social constructs and prejudices, such as homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny.

How does Merrowvista provide an gender-inclusive camp?

Merrowvista is working to create a program where campers who identify as male, female, transgender, and gender expansive interact in community together. Participants are currently housed by the gender identity provided during registration, which still operates in the gender binary.

Merrowvista participants are welcome to explore identity as individuals and discuss what this looks like in a gender-inclusive community. Staff show participants how to create spaces for others to be themselves and provide opportunities for youth to learn more about who they are.

How do AYF camps address privacy when dressing?

All campers and staff deserve privacy when changing clothes. Everyone in our programs is encouraged to use the bathrooms (called BIFFs – Bathrooms in the Friendly Forest – at camp) to change as much as possible. The layout and size of our cabins mean that sometimes participants change in view of their cabinmates. We continue to upgrade our cabins and bathrooms to provide more private changing spaces.

Does the AYF provide gender-neutral bathrooms and showers?

In general, single-occupancy bathrooms and shower spaces in the cabin areas are gendered at Miniwanca and Merrowvista.

Beginning in summer 2022, Merrowvista has a Super BIFF, which offers private, single-occupancy showers and toilets. There are additional single-occupancy restrooms and shower spaces available elsewhere on site.

Miniwanca offers BIFFs in each cabin area that are designated male or female.

Each AYF camp has all-gender bathrooms in communal areas around site.

Equitable Access to the Outdoors

The AYF is working to decrease financial barriers that may exist for youth to reach our programs. Equitable access to the outdoors is why we are continuously examining our processes around financial aid and scholarship.