While home to so many premier youth camps, Maine is also home to many children of immigrant and refugee families who face a lack of summer opportunities. These young people often lose out. They are denied the chance to be in Maine’s beautiful natural spaces, denied the fun of outdoor play and skill development with friends and role models and denied the simple enjoyment of summer in Maine. These kids are also at greater risk for summer learning loss and the effects of a growing opportunity gap.

Providing youth camping opportunities for immigrant and refugee youth through the Level Ground initiative will extend these benefits to wider community and will promote increased diversity of Maine’s camps. The program will help foster increasingly inclusive communities that benefit both campers and the staff who support them.

Appreciation for diversity, and the opportunity to create and grow friendships across cultural lines, are both learned skills and a hallmark of quality camp experiences.  By widening the diversity of camp communities, all campers will take these skills into their future college, career and community lives.

The American Camp Association broadly promotes the benefits of diverse camp communities. In a 2013 document entitled “Camp Diversity: A Call to Action,” the ACA wrote: Diversity is a reality. Because social and economic change is here, camps must understand the need for cultural competence. If camps don’t improve, it will be a challenge for them to fulfill the social contract made with families – that the skills a child learns at camp will contribute to his or her success in the classroom and make him or her a successful contributing adult in the future. A diverse camp community will ensure that the promise we make to families is fulfilled.

Roberto Gill Jr., Esq., a Latino camp professional, contributed his view on diversity to an ACA publication more poetically: “I think of diversity as the crayons in the box and inclusion as the works of art they can create together.”

As an organization, Maine Summer Camps has made an ongoing commitment to addressing issues related to diversity, including hosting educational workshops on such topics as cross-cultural agility. Level Ground organizers see their initiative as one dedicated to helping to implement this commitment.

Level Ground organizers believe that youth from immigrant and refugee populations will benefit from a coordinated effort among camps to provide the best possible camp experience. These youth will learn new skills, make new friends with fellow campers from around Maine, the country, and the world, and will benefit from caring role models.

Summer enrichment opportunities are needed by all Maine youth, beyond the tremendous work currently undertaken by individual camps. Camp professionals offer such opportunities. In so doing, they strive to create safe, healthy, and enriching communities.
All elements of safety—physical, emotional, and social—are a priority. Maine camps must meet strict licensing and regulatory requirements promulgated by the State of Maine.
In addition, many Maine camps are accredited by the American Camp Association and meet the ACA’s broad and rigorous standards.

Organizational support for Level Ground is provided by Maine Summer Camps, a not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to support and promote meaningful developmental, educational, environmental and recreational experiences for children. Maine Summer Camps is financially supported in large part by dues from its more than 150 business and camp members.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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