North Star Camp for Boys

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Black Lives Matter at Summer Camp

 “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite." - Nelson Mandela

Today marks a Summer Camp Day of Action for Black Lives Matter. North Star unequivocally supports the Black Lives Matter movement. As we were gearing up to begin pre-camp orientation this summer, the world began responding to the killing of George Floyd. North Star has always valued diversity, equity, and inclusion, but we wanted to do more this summer to instill those values in our campers and staff. While we are proud of the steps taken in 2020, they are only part of an ongoing effort to ensure that North Star remains an inclusive environment where everyone can be their true self at camp regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation.

During pre-camp, one of our first-year nurses Molly told us that she wanted to lead a Privilege Walk. The Privilege Walk was an activity that highlights how people benefit or are marginalized by systems in our society. We gathered on the athletic field and stood in a straight line along the 3rd baseline of Dan’s Diamond. Molly began by reading a series of statements and every person either stepped forward, stepped backward, or stood in place, depending on whether they agreed or disagreed with the phrase. For example, two of the statements were “If you ever tried to change your appearance, mannerisms, or behavior to fit in more, take one step back,” and “If you have always assumed you’ll go to college, take one step forward.” At the end of the Privilege Walk, the exercise generally resulted in white males being further ahead than other groups, an unfortunate yet also unsurprising reality to the systems deeply rooted in racism within our society. Certain privileges are woven into the mainstream fabric of society that it is often hard to even recognize them, which is exactly why we were proud Molly wanted to lead the Privilege Walk during pre-camp. Unless we are able to recognize our unconscious biases or understand that there are societal norms that provide roadblocks to marginalized groups, we cannot begin to make the changes needed to make society more equitable and fair to everyone regardless of race, sexual orientation, or background. The most powerful part of the evening was our debrief discussions afterward. We broke into our pre-camp pods and discussed how certain statements made us feel, what statement made us think the most, or how it felt to be at the front/middle/back of the pack. It was empowering to sit on the athletic field and look at the debrief groups, seeing how serious everyone was taking this exercise. It set a tone for other similar discussions throughout the summer.

One of the staples of the North Star program is our Friday Night Services. Every Friday, we gather at the Council Ring to reflect on the week. There is always a theme to the service such as “Overcoming Mistakes,” “Character,” and “Grit and Perseverance,” to name a few. As soon as the George Floyd protests began to take place, we made the decision to put together an Anti-Racism themed Friday Night Service. Many of our staff this summer were passionate about racial inequality and volunteered ideas and support for the service, including sermonettes, readings, and musical selections. We had readings from Michelle Obama, Civil Rights Leaders including Malcolm X and Coretta Scott King, and excerpts from books like “How to Be An Antiracist.” The musical selections were particularly moving: Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” which has been described as an anthem of the civil rights movement. “Blowin’ In The Wind” went on to inspire “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke, which was another musical selection that evening. “A Change Is Gonna Come” was written about various personal events in Sam Cooke’s life, most prominently the experience of being turned away by a white-only motel in Louisiana. In the song, Sam sings, “it’s a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.” The song was written in 1964. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of work to be done. The final song of the evening was “All Some Kind of Dream” by Josh Ritter, a 2019 song that takes a stand against anti-immigration policies and offers hope that human compassion will win out in the end. It was a powerful evening.

We did a similar activity to the Privilege Walk in our fall camp orientation, where one of our counselors read statements about North Star and its culture, and staff members went to one side of the tennis court depending on whether or not they agreed or disagreed with the statement. Example statements were “A person from any walk of life can thrive at North Star” and “The ways in which I am different are valued here, not just tolerated.” Despite only being a few days into knowing each other, it was powerful to see so many staff members speak so passionately and openly about why they felt the way they did. The exercise was an incredibly moving session and part of our ongoing effort to learn about our culture and what we can do to continually improve upon making sure North Star is inclusive and promotes equality to every member of our community.

Following that session, one of our new counselors, Karson, shared some of his personal experiences growing up as a black child in a predominantly white community. He shared how he was once told that he was hired for a job to be the “minority hire”. One of the more powerful moments of Karson’s speech was when he shared a conversation he had with one of our other black counselors, Shay. Karson went up to Shay during pre-camp and asked him why he loved working at North Star and why he had returned this year for his second summer (and then also came back for fall camp). Shay replied, “when a kid gets off the bus, I want them to see someone who looks like them and know that they’re not alone.” Sometimes the best way to learn and understand inequalities is to hear stories from people who have experienced them firsthand. Karson helped spearhead plenty of thought-provoking conversations during fall camp and we thank him for having the courage to share them with the rest of the fall camp group.

                                 Karson and one of our Fall Camp campers

Camp is a better place when its people are diverse, and when tolerance and empathy are pillars of the camp culture. Every year, we work hard to ensure we are hiring as diverse of a staff as possible to help instill those values in our campers and fellow staff members. Diversity comes in many shapes and forms - cultural, racial, religious, sexual orientation, etc. At the end of the day, we want to hire great counselors who will be excellent role models for the campers and help them appreciate that differences amongst each other are good things. Accepting others for who they are is incredibly important, both in our camp environment and in life itself.  

North Star is also a proud founding member of Camp For All Kids. Camp For All Kids was established in 1997 to facilitate racial diversity at summer camps by sending kids from under-served communities to overnight camp. Our partnership with this organization simultaneously makes North Star a better place and helps instill the values of inclusion and anti-racism in all of our campers as they seek to make the world a better place. Every summer, through generous charitable donations raised from alums and other donors, we have Camp For All Kids campers at North Star to provide them with an opportunity to grow and learn life skills at camp, experiences that they otherwise would not be able to have. To date, Camp For All Kids has given thousands of camp years to campers since its inception. If you are interested in donating to the cause so future campers can attend North Star and other Camp For All Kids camps, please consider donating here.  

Standing up for racial equality has always been in North Star’s cultural fabric, dating back to our original founders Lou and Renee Rosenblum. The steps we took this summer were positive steps in the right direction, but achieving the level of diversity and inclusion we strive for is very much a work in progress with plenty of room for improvement. Today we stand with the summer camp community in their support for Black Lives Matter, and we vow to work hard every day to make North Star more inclusive, diverse, and equal for all campers and counselors who come through the North Star arches in the future.

Friday, October 30, 2020

2020 Reflections Video

"In a year where nothing was normal, North Star was normal and it just felt like we won the lottery." - 2020 Camp Parent

With the help of some campers, counselors, and staff, we look back on the unique and very rewarding summer of 2020.


Monday, September 14, 2020

First Day Of School!

Today our campers did something at camp that we have never done in our 76 year history: they went to school.  After getting settled this weekend, our boys were up bright and early to begin their first day of school at camp.  We’ve arranged camp so that every camper has a “classroom cabin” located next to their regular cabin.  Each classroom cabin is equipped with tables and chairs to create a desk space for each camper (and picnic tables right outside to use for when it’s nice out).  Of course, we’re also encouraging the boys to get outside to attend their classes around camp if that environment will not be distracting for them.  Most of the campers opted to do school for their first day in the cabins, but I did see a few virtually learning from some of the hammocks around camp!

Each school day, we will have to “Recess” periods, which are modeled after our summer Organized Free periods. Today, we had riflery, arts and crafts, waterskiing, and a few other activities open for the campers if they didn’t have class and needed a break from doing schoolwork.  I mean, has there ever been a cooler recess period than going waterskiing in between math and science class?!

At 2:30 PM today, we rang the bell to officially open the Fall Camp Cafe for the first time ever.  The Fall Camp Cafe will give the campers a chance to take a break towards the end of their school day and grab a snack.  It will be open every Monday through Friday at 2:30 PM (and closed on weekends -- aka camp days!).  There was quite a selection of snacks to choose from today: bags of pretzels, popcorn, cookies, string cheese, and some homemade Rice Krispies treats.  And since it was a perfect fall day today, we also had some hot chocolate for those with an even bigger sweet tooth.  Everyone at the Fall Camp Cafe could relax at the picnic tables with their friends, fill out a First Day Chalkboard to get their picture taken, or listen to the tunes being played on guitar by one of our awesome counselors, David.

After the Fall Camp Cafe closed and homework was completed, we went right into a jam-packed afternoon of camp activities!  Once school is over, our goal as much as possible is to get the boys out around camp, moving around and having fun.  First up was “After School Activities” which gave the campers the options to go sailing, swimming, or biking today. Next up was “Club” time where we had Arts & Crafts, Disc Golf, Chess, and Fishing open.  Lastly, before dinner, we had “Evening Program” where the younger boys went on a Nature Hike along the nature trail and the older boys played a game of speedball on the athletic field.  We finished up the day with a delicious make-your-own taco bar.  

Tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful weather outside (a high of 80 degrees!) so we expect to see a lot of the kids doing their remote schooling outside and taking advantage of the waterfront during their recesses and post-school activities.  The first day of school was a great success today; we’re looking forward to what tomorrow brings!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Fall Camp: The Adventure Begins

The first weekend is in the books and it has been a huge success. Over the last two days, the boys have spent time getting to know one another and getting settled into our Fall Camp routine. Today was filled with dodgeball, softball, riflery, archery, climbing, waterskiing, kickball and more. The boys had the opportunity to shoot some hoops in the Fieldhouse and watch some football outside of the Lodge. All of that only came after we took time to set up the study cabins and test our hotspots, as well as our introductory health checks.

And we are feeling ready for tomorrow. All of the remote learning schedules are mapped out to allow not only for the boys to get their studies done, but for them to have opportunities for “recess” during the mornings and afternoons, followed by “afterschool activities” at 3:30, their clubs at 4:30 and an all-camp program at 5:30. Our education coordinators have the boys prepped and ready for this “first day of school” at camp. Most importantly, it has been so great to see the boys so happy and relaxed. While we’re getting used to the slower paced experience at camp (and seeing technology here), the campers and counselors alike are expressing their gratitude for being able to be here. I’m feeling that way too.

Whenever I have to travel away from Laney, even if only for a day or two, it always looks to me like she’s changed so much when I return. I know that the reality is that she changes gradually over time, but having that break allows you to see it in a different way. I went down to Chicago for the pickup there and it was the first time I had really seen the city since the beginning of May, and in a way I had that same feeling about my city. While I have been reading all of the news about how Covid and protests have changed the city, seeing it for myself was jarring - shops boarded up, some open like nothing had happened, some streets completely quiet, others with full traffic, some people wearing masks and face shields and gloves, and others wearing none. Most of all, it was filled with a tension that I have not gotten used to. Being up here for the whole summer and most of the spring, I haven’t had the chance to learn to tolerate all of it.

So returning to camp with our Fall Campers filled me with joy and gratitude. While we’re figuring out a great many things about what this new program will look like, this adventure here is filled with laughter and cheering and active, happy, socially engaged kids who are getting to still be kids. Thank you so much for trusting us with them during these wild times. With the first weekend of Fall Camp in the books, and the first day of school in the morning, we can’t wait to make the best of every day with this group for the next six weeks.

Chairs up, pencils down,


Monday, August 10, 2020

Laundry Day and Guten Gallop!

You’ll be happy to know that we shipped off laundry today for one final round before packing day this Thursday. Counselors helped their campers check under their beds, in their cubby areas, and on their clotheslines for any dirty or wet belongings that need to be washed before returning home. We sent in staff from the Leadership Team to each cabin to give their final stamp of approval before the bags could be sent off to the laundromat. If there were unchanged sheets on the bed or even loose socks in the middle of the cabin, all the boys had to wait to take out their bags. We’re hoping this will make packing day a little easier (and cleaner) for campers and counselors alike! 


Today we had one of the final Organized Free periods of the summer, and the boys enjoyed activities such as climbing, archery, riflery, swimming, and disc golf. The J-Village boys really love fishing, so they got fishing as an activity for two days in a row! The I-Village got their turn in the Arm & Hammer to make their cabin plaques, and on Wednesday, the S-Village will have time to finish theirs up during the final Organized Free period. There won’t be Organized Free tomorrow, as tomorrow is Camper Counselor Day! 


Tonight’s Evening Program was the Guten Gallop. This is a race against oneself - each camper predicted the time it would take for them to get from the Council Ring to the middle of Boys Camp Road and back. Counselors time each camper, and whichever camper predicted their time most accurately wins. Boys dressed up in goofy outfits for this program, and while most boys chose to walk at their own pace, some did jog at times throughout the path! The campers are really glad we could still put on this event this year. We’re ready for the amazing Camper Counselor Day that’s headed our way!

Today’s Grace:

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

-Thomas Jefferson


 Be seated.