BY AIDAN SEIDEN | Perfectly timed with June Pride Month, the Educational Alliance’s 14th Street Y Community Center recently announced that it will be launching a new program this summer for queer youth called New Country Pride Camp.
In contrast to other camps that are designed for children of L.G.B.T.Q.+ parents, New Country Pride Camp — which will run for five days, Aug. 16 to Aug. 20 — is dedicated exclusively to L.G.B.T.Q.+ adolescents.
The camp is unique in that it is one of the first of its kind to focus on the inclusivity and diversity of queer children, with an emphasis on discussions aimed at assisting all children on the L.G.B.T.Q.+ spectrum in the development of their identities.
As David Byrnes, the Educational Alliance’s communications director, described it, “NCPC combines the fun of New Country Day Camp, including our rich array of programs — sports, arts, movement, swimming and more — with the unique opportunity for NCPC campers to participate in daily activities rooted in social-emotional learning, keyed to topics of critical importance to L.G.B.T.Q.+ people: identity, family and community.”
Alan van Capelle, the Educational Alliance’s president and C.E.O., first proposed the idea for this novel two-week program last summer. However, to his dismay, COVID-19 swiftly derailed the plan. Now that the pandemic is, hopefully, nearing its end, arrangements for the camp are underway, and families in Manhattan have already expressed great interest.
For Byrnes, he said he simply wants to offer all the kids “the typical movie camp experience.” The construction of the program is advantageous, in that, since the Pride Camp is within the larger NCDC community, it allows for a child who identifies as L.G.B.T.Q.+ to sign up and go to camp with their non-queer friends or siblings, enabling them to share some of the same camp experiences, such as taking the bus together, using the same pool, participating in the same camp-wide activities. This overlapping aspect is done intentionally to highlight the inclusive nature of the camps.
Another feature that all the NCDC day campers share is that they are driven to a beautiful 75-acre campground filled with fields and forests.
“It’s great, especially for kids growing up in the city who may not have the opportunity to be outside all summer or be in nature,” Byrnes said. “Our mission is to provide these experiences where the children feel a sense of belonging and a sense of community, where they are celebrated for who they are.”
Although the L.G.B.T.Q.+ youth may have previously attended traditional day camps, the specific goal of this program is to provide a safe environment where the children can be themselves while simultaneously being celebrated and centered in ways not seen at other camps. This is achieved by providing not only traditional camp activities, such as swimming and athletics, but also a variety of community-building exercises spread throughout the duration of the camp.
“For a child 5 to 13 years old to be able to do that,” Byrnes said, “with other kids who also identify on the queer spectrum, along with counselors who themselves are queer, we just feel that that is an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”
As for the price, in the the new camp program’s pilot year, the Educational Alliance is offering parents a sliding scale, of from $350 to $1,000, the latter which is the actual cost of running the program for one camper. If parents can pay more, they are encouraged to do so, helping give families of less financial means the chance to send their children to the camp, too.
Over all, the NCDC camp’s programming is rooted in Jewish tradition and guided by universal values, with the goal of empowering campers to experiment and play in a supportive, nurturing environment.
For more information on New Country Pride Camp, click here.