Creating a Welcoming Camp for Transgender and Non-binary People

The following post is a statement by the Camp Quest NorthWest Board of Directors.

Well, 2017’s camp season has come to an end. This summer, the “CQNW Department of Skepticism” trained up over 115 new Special Agents with an emphasis on critical thinking, skepticism, and friendship. This was the second year where the theme of camp was woven into daily activities, and was the first year where we had a week long “story arc” with clues, double-crosses, and mysterious characters galore. The campers were engaged in figuring out what was fact, what was fiction, and what was the true motive behind mysterious sightings of our beloved arboreal cephalopod.

There was another first this past season, and that was the introduction of gender neutral cabins and bathrooms. This was borne from the board’s decision to better serve campers and staff who identify as transgender and non-binary. This issue is particularly important to us at a time where states are considering enacting legislation regarding the use of public restrooms, and the rights of transgender people in general have become a leading topic of national conversation.

We started this practice because we felt it was the right thing to do. This is not a change that affected every cabin or camper. Parents were able to opt their children in, declare no preference, or opt their children out.

After a lot of preparation and discussion we were happy to find that implementing this practice went incredibly smoothly. There were no major issues. From watching our campers interact with each other it was pretty clear that they are exceptionally mature and compassionate. Campers were involved in setting the ground rules for each individual cabin. They respected each other’s boundaries, and modeled a level of grace and maturity that was very inspiring to witness.

As far as bathrooms go, our host camp is set up such that there are two bathroom buildings. One had very poor gender separation to begin with, so it became the gender neutral bathroom. Anyone was free to use it. The remaining building had very good separation, and campers were free to use it according to their gender identity. Nobody was pressured regarding their choice of which bathroom to use.

We also made efforts to acknowledge campers’ choices with regard to their preferred names and pronouns. Our staff does their best to do this because it is important to us that campers are allowed the dignity of being identified in the manner they are most comfortable with.

We’re very happy with the implementation of this practice, and we’re looking forward to continuing it in the future. We expect this will be expanded and formalized in the future, and we’ll continue to look for new ways that we can be inclusive and welcoming to all campers.

The Camp Quest NorthWest Board of Directors

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CQNW 2017 Mission Briefing

The following mission briefing will be delivered to campers the week prior to the camp session.

CONFIDENTIAL/SENSITIVE SOURCE

THE CQ-FILES, CASE # 20170618-7

RE: SAMISH ISLAND SIGHTINGS

Greetings, agent.

Something mysterious has taken place at CAMP QUEST NORTHWEST. Reports from the residents of SAMISH ISLAND and surrounding environs indicate that a mysterious figure has been seen moving through the trees. Some eyewitness accounts describe a large glowing octopus-like creature, while others have reported shimmering lights appearing on the surface of the water. The CQNW DEPARTMENT OF SKEPTICISM requires your assistance in determining the truth behind these reports.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to report to CAMP QUEST NORTHWEST on Sunday, June 18th between 1:00PM and 3:00PM. When you arrive you will be assigned to a Task Force that will be responsible for investigations into this and other unexplained phenomena. Once you and the other members of your Task Force have completed training you will be asked to gather all available evidence of these strange sightings, examine the clues in an appropriately critical manner, and determine whether there is a scientific explanation for these seemingly paranormal events.

Your discretion in these matters is of the greatest importance. Please consider this information to be TOP SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL. This message will self- destruct. (Please note, the self-destruction mechanism is subject the biodegradable properties of the paper on which this message is printed. Allow 10-10,000 years.)

Sincerely,

MIKE WARBINGTON, CQNW – JUNE CAMP DIRECTOR

BRIDGET LOMBARDO, CQNW – JUNE DEPUTY DIRECTOR

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Does Camp Quest NorthWest Accept Parents on Staff?

We get asked this question a lot. The answer is – of course we accept parents on staff! But the real question we need to answer is, “Do we accept parents on staff who also have children at camp?”.

The answer to that one is – yes, but it’s complicated…

It should not be a surprise to any parent that children have distinct personalities and develop at different rates. This is what makes the job of parenting difficult – there is simply no “one size fits all” approach to being a good parent. Despite that, it is the job of a parent to guide their children through the process of growing up to become compassionate, productive, and independent adults.

Part of the process of guiding a child is allowing them to be in situations where they can safely “test the waters” and make their own mistakes. This is where Summer Camp becomes an excellent tool.

A week of Summer Camp is a great opportunity for parents to take a break and enjoy their own vacation. While at the same time, they can be assured that their child is in excellent hands, having a great time, enjoying new friendships, and learning to navigate many important life situations independently.

From a parenting perspective, we recognize that our child emerges from this carefully structured experience with tools and perspectives that we could never teach them on our own. From the campers’s perspective, a successful camp experience is something that stays with them for the rest of their life. It informs many of their future decisions and colors their future relationships in ways that only they can explain many years later.

Where it gets complicated is when parents are on staff when their child is at camp. For the camp experience to be successful, the camper must have the opportunity to be independent, and free of parental judgement and critique. At the same time, the camper has to be willing to navigate the camp experience without seeking out their parent for comfort and reassurance.

Not all campers and parents are capable of making this a successful experience. So as a parent of a camper who is considering applying for a staff position, you need to consider the following:

  • Will you take your role as a staff member seriously? Your role at camp is to fill an integral position on a team that is responsible for the lives and well being of 50-100 campers.
  • This will be an enriching experience for you, and it will be an enriching experience for your child, but it will not be an enriching shared experience. You will be busy with your own duties, and your child will be part of the camp program. Ideally, you will rarely, if ever, intersect.
  • If you revert to the role of parent, you are not fulfilling your own duties, and are potentially undermining their cabin counselors. You may also be making it harder for them to form bonds with their cabin mates.
  • If your child seeks you out at camp, are you able to gently but firmly, redirect them back to their counselor without addressing their needs, regardless of the size of their request?
  • Are you able to remain detached and let their counselor handle things when your child encounters a difficult situation at camp?
  • If you are completely honest with yourself, do you feel like you are going to have difficulty focusing on your own job duties while your camper has their own independent camp experience?

This is not a comprehensive set things to consider, but they should help get the conversation started and convey a general idea of what is expected of you as a staff member. We take the role of staff very seriously and expect you to as well.

To sum up, yes, we would absolutely love to have you on staff. But only if you honestly believe that you and your camper are ready to make this a great independent experience for both of you!

If you are still interested in joining us on staff, you can find our application instructions here.

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Looking Forward to 2017 – Announcing Camp Dates, Tuition, and Registration Information

[The following is a post from Camp Quest NorthWest volunteer Libbie Grant. – Mike]

Hello, Camp Quest NorthWest families! We recently held our monthly board meeting for November. The meeting had several important items on the agenda, including our board elections and a lengthy discussion about the best ways to facilitate the continued development of Camp Quest NorthWest. It is our priority to continue bringing the very best summer camp experience to our campers.

As we are all aware, demand for Camp Quest NorthWest has increased rapidly. The rapid booking-up of our camp session last January was a big wake-up call for all of us at CQNW. Demand for more camp sessions, combined with the $10,000 budget deficit we incurred for the 2016 session, has necessitated a careful evaluation of our goals, both near-term and in the longer term. We were able to make up our deficit thanks to corporate fundraising, but that is not a tactic we can count on year after year. In order to keep CQNW viable for many years to come we must make the camp itself self-sustaining.

The board held a lengthy brainstorming session searching for the best way to meet this important goal. That discussion culminated at our November board meeting where we agreed on a plan for CQNW’s near future.

We will raise camp tuition prices in 2017 and 2018, stepping up the cost by $100 each year. Tuition in 2017 will be set at $650 per camper. CQNW has not raised tuition prices in five years, so this may come as a surprise. We wanted to announce this change as early as possible to aid your budgeting. Please note that we will not be able to offer early registration or sibling discounts. We will continue to offer our need-based “campership” tuition assistance program; details on camperships are available during registration. We don’t want any camper to miss out on attending camp due to the cost, and we encourage families to consider applying for a campership.

We are very happy to announce that we will offer two camp sessions at Camp Kirby in 2017. The first session is scheduled for June 18-24, 2017, and the second is scheduled for August 13-19, 2017. Camp Kirby is a more affordable site than any other campground that we’ve found in Washington, which has allowed us to keep our costs low over the past five years. Although we all love Camp Kirby, and have an excellent rapport with their owners and staff, our board agrees that it is wisest for CQNW to establish relationships with other campgrounds. Expanding our camp relationships will allow us to continue CQNW even in the face of circumstances beyond our control, such as inclement weather damaging Kirby’s low-lying grounds, and will also give more families around the region better accessibility to our camp. Our gradual increase in tuition will allow us to look towards establishing a relationship with an additional camp location for 2018 and beyond.

Please keep in mind that although we will raise tuition prices by $200 over the next two years, attendance at CQNW will still cost less than average tuition prices for summer camps in Washington State. In large part, we are able to deliver that value to our families because our entire staff consists of volunteers.

Here are some quick facts to keep in mind about this change, as we approach the New Year and registration time:

  • Registration will open on January 2, 2017 at 12:01 AM. We don’t want to make you get up early on New Year’s Day again.
  • Based on our experience with last year’s registration, we will activate the waiting list before we reach our actual limit on enrollments. The wait list is combined with campership applications, and all are processed on a “first in, first out” basis, so it is important to register and/or apply for a campership as early as possible.
  • However, in the case of L.T. campers (teens who have completed 9th grade and will be at least 15 at the start of camp), we may process registrations out of order to ensure that we maintain a robust L.T. program. Our L.T.s are critical in ensuring the continued success of our organization; we don’t want them to get lost in another potentially frantic registration!
  • As we will have two sessions at Camp Kirby this year, we encourage you to keep the following in mind: you may register your camper for both sessions if you want to, but we will not offer discounts on the second session. Programming will also be exactly the same at both sessions. Please keep in mind that demand is high for CQNW, and register your camper accordingly.
  • If your camper has particular friends they want to see at camp, we encourage you to get in touch with those campers’ parents early and plan which session you’ll register your kids for.

Thanks, families! We’re all looking forward to 2017, and are excited to bring your campers another great summer camp experience.

Libbie Grant, board member at large

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“October in November” Board Meeting Update – Elections 2016!

After “Stormpocalypse 2016” forced our regularly scheduled October board meeting to be delayed, we held our October meeting in November instead. We had an incredibly productive meeting, including holding board elections, finalizing and approving the 2017 budget, and finalizing 2017 camp session details. Stay tuned for an important announcement regarding 2017 camp dates and details, and see the bottom of this post for our upcoming “November in December” and “Actual December” Board meeting dates.

2016 Board Elections

The CQNW Board of Directors is pleased to announce the election of three new board members: Kathy Amadio, Libbie Grant and Meg Colburn. Libbie and Meg will serve in the role of Members at Large, while Kathy will hold the position of Treasurer. They join President Chuck Wolber, Vice President Mike Warbington, Secretary Jami Gramore and Members at Large Bridget Lombardo, Paul Mopps and Phil Cole.

kathy01 dsc08283-01

From left to right: Kathy Amadio, Libbie Grant and Meg Colburn.

Incumbent members Chuck, Jami, Mike and Bridget, along with new members Libbie, Meg and Kathy, were elected to two year terms that expire in September 2018. Current members Paul and Phil are currently serving terms set to expire in September 2017.

Next Meeting(s)

The next two board meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, December 6th and Tuesday, December 20th, both at the Round Table Pizza in Burien at 6:30 PM.

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