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Centre Safe Day Camp Lets Local Youth Explore Social Issues

by on July 02, 2019 5:00 AM

A summer day camp organized by Centre Safe gives local youth the opportunity to explore important social issues and tap into their own potential for activism. 

Camp Peaceworks is now in its third year and takes place July 22–26 at Seven Mountains Scout Camp. 

While Centre Safe focuses primarily around the prevention, education and awareness aspects of violence — particularly sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, stalking and interpersonal relationship violence — Sara McPherson, director of outreach and education, says that these issues all intersect with racism, sexism and other forms of oppression. 

“It’s important to talk about these things and provide a space for youth to share their stories and learn from one another,” she says.

The free camp accepts Centre County students, ages 13–17, with attendance capped at 25 students. An application process is required, wherein students discuss why they’re interested in attending Camp Peaceworks and how their school or community might benefit from their attendance.

The first four days of the camp focus on different social issues, including youth justice and adultism, gender and LGBTQ+ justice, racial justice and disability justice. The last day wraps up with discussions on intersectionality and future actions youth can take in response to what they’ve learned over the week. This year is the first camp session that includes a day devoted to disability justice. 

“…We had campers, staff and volunteers who felt that [it] was an important topic to discuss and spend some time on,” says McPherson.

Throughout the week, campers enjoy both small group activities with a home group of students close to their age, as well as large group activities that allow for eye-opening conversations. As McPherson notes they “talk about a lot of difficult and real things…”

She describes one of the most powerful moments of most days, a caucus in which the group of campers is split into a “more power group” and a “less power group.”

“On racial justice day, the more power group will be the white folks and the less power group will be the people of color. The two groups get to connect with each other and answer and reflect on a few questions…We do a speak-out activity [where] the less power group can stand up and share [in response] to those questions and prompts. It’s really for the more power group to listen to the experiences and the thoughts and feelings of those in the less power group, because that doesn’t always happen. Then the more power group mirrors back exactly what they’ve heard said…” 

This, McPherson says, encourages the students to practice active listening and actually show that they hear exactly what was said, rather than lending their own interpretations to what they’ve been told.

Beyond the serious conversations, students also participate in recreational time, with opportunities for swimming, hiking, boating and other classic camp activities. 

"We’ve seen a few concrete action steps that some of the youth have taken after attending camp…We want to create not just a space to talk about these things, but also [to] empower youth and let them know that they have support around their activism and their interest in social justice. I think as a community, they’re all things that we need to and want to be talking about more and the youth voice in that is very important and meaningful,” adds McPherson.

Those interested in attending camp can learn more on the Centre Safe website. For adults interested in volunteering, keep an eye on Centre Safe’s website and social media for more details to be released regarding next year’s volunteer opportunities.


Holly Riddle is a freelance food, lifestyle and entertainment writer. She can be reached at [email protected]
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