Becoming an ally thanks to UU youth camps

Grayson’s mom shares her story of the power of leadership development at UU youth camps

The call came the week before Thanksgiving that students protesting Reed College’s financial ties to the private prison industry were being unfairly threatened with suspension and/or dismissal.

Our son Grayson explained that he’d needed to explicitly align himself with the movement and its consequences in order to materially support the efforts of black and indigenous student organizers who had much more to lose from retaliation at the hands of this predominantly white institution.

He understood the importance of standing up to those who silence people of color, and despite the fear of reprisal felt by everyone involved he needed to do what was right for the community at stake. Importantly, this was an ongoing, decentralized protest movement that allowed for a plurality of voices, opportunities for listening and growth, and for shifts in tactics in response to the wider community’s needs.

Through conversation and action regarding curriculum reform, student staff positions, and economic justice, Grayson was better able to understand the power of the covenant and live out his UU values.

We were so proud—but understood that this was about more than him alone.

As an introvert, Grayson does not fit the “typical” profile of an activist.  But he attended Camp de Benneville Pines for congregational and youth camps, later serving on youth staff at camps and as a counselor. 

The leadership training he received (through the Counselor-In-Training program “CIT”) helped him to develop communication skills, work with children of all ages, learn how to actively listen, and how to navigate conflict.

Camp is an ever-evolving program, considering the needs of a growing community and providing youth with incredibly important resources including chaplain services and Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression workshops, as well as making space for the exploration of gender, sexuality, and other identities.

With the help of camp’s compassionate adult advisors, Grayson’s many years of learning to step a little outside his comfort zone led to the cultivation of interpersonal skills and long-lasting friendships, a curiosity for knowledge, and an appreciation for people who are not like him.

He is the person he is today because of the years he spent at camp—and Our Whole Lives classes at his congregation—learning to explore his beliefs, question assumptions, and build community; to breathe in peace, and breathe out love.

Camp is a place of laughter, fun, and both happy and sad tears.  Camp is a place we can explore our UU values, better ourselves as individuals, and support the broader community. 

It is an amazing, sacred place of spiritual growth and relationship building.

Camp provides an opportunity to learn how to be an ally for people on the margins of society. 

Our future, as people and UUs, is brighter because of the youth that get to spend time at camp.

My shy son has grown into a compassionate, caring, social justice advocate with a passion to make our world a better place. Now that college is over, he’s just trying to figure out exactly how to describe all that on a résumé.     

We are monthly donors to Camp de Benneville.  It has offered all three of our children an incredible experience and deepening faith as UUs. 

We’d like to invite you to support the development of other youths by becoming a monthly contributor to the Camp. 

— Liz Bear, Tapestry UU (Lake Forest, CA)

Become a sustaining supporter of camp or make a year-end gift by December 31st, and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar. Thank you!


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