The American Youth Foundation was established in 1925 by a group of progressive leaders committed to helping young people reach their potential.
Our founders were inspired by a common vision: to develop leaders for all of life’s vocations, to inspire young people to discover and develop their own best self, and to give them the tools to live a balanced life. To accomplish this, it was essential for these youth to come together in places set apart from their daily lives. Early leaders of the organization purchased two scenic properties: one on Lake Michigan, which they named Miniwanca, and one in the Ossipee Mountains of New Hampshire, named Merrowvista. After a busy year of preparation, they began conducting distinctive camp conferences at the two sites in the summer of 1925.
These programs introduced thousands of young people to the philosophy of four-fold balanced living through mental, social, physical, and spiritual growth. In these communities, they would gain new skills and build their capacity to believe in themselves. Upon returning home, these campers would act on their learning to make a positive difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.
For over 90 years, Miniwanca and Merrowvista have continued to evolve to meet the needs of the young people we serve. Though early founders spoke from a distinctively Christian perspective, we are now an interfaith organization welcoming people from all backgrounds and traditions.
We strongly value diverse perspectives and experiences, and we seek to create communities where all feel welcome to be their own best self. It is our goal to provide inspirational programs where all youth are offered the opportunity to take on that challenge as well.
The legacy of the American Youth Foundation is still evident today as thousands of young people who experience our camps, conferences and year-round programs each and every year act upon the AYF’s timeless dare to: