We are familiar with the magic of Hidden Villa's Summer Camp programs. The undercurrent of intention and powerful energy guiding these programs reveals this mystery. A Residential camper pops a sour grape in her mouth as she pokes her head in the secret grape hut. Inside, her chore group is cooling off while chatting about how the 1965 grape strike and boycott influenced pesticide policies throughout california and the standard of living for farm workers nationally. Meanwhile atop Black Mountain, Farm and Wilderness campers are creating common ground. Through a ceremony of sharing vulnerabilities, the twenty-four teens discover that they are not alone. "I feel closer to you guys then my friends I've had my whole life," reflects one F&W camper. "I want to try and build this at home."In Tipi Camp a similar nurturing community built upon curiosity and respect is being cultivated. A 9 year old camper told his mother about "learning to be an ally, how its better to use an 'I' statement and not a 'you' statement, and the gender roles exercise. Then he summed up in this way: "Its not the other camps I've gone to, you don't just do crafts and learn archery, its like a 'how to live a good life' camp.""Thank you for giving youth the opportunity to discover membership in a community united around positive change.
Soon the summer will be upon us, which means the sound of children of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and family structures singing loudly and laughing easily together. Our dynamic summer staff is responsible for ensuring fun and meaningful experiences through intentional—and safe—activities.
Our community of staff mirror the diversity found within our camper population, which provides unique opportunities for campers to see themselves in their mentors. Much of the material presented has been developed and honed under the staff’s own life experience, which becomes a tool of identification for many of our campers to relate to.
Hidden Villa Summer Camp's vision is to foster multicultural understanding and promote social justice in the community and is nestled in Hidden Villa's broader mission of utilizing its land and wilderness to encourage just and sustainable living. Great intentionality goes into the recruiting of our staff to ensure a well-rounded educational opportunity for both campers and staff that will inspire a just and sustainable future.
We approach hiring with every facet of Hidden Villa in mind. We utilize programs such as the Association of Experiential Education to advertise positions to environmental stewards and partner with nonprofits such as Summer Search and Students Rising Above that focus on the continued success of their participants that identify as low-income. Hidden Villa has a proud history of supporting all backgrounds through scholarships to ensure a community where all voices may be represented, supported, and nurtured.
As Spring transitions into Summer, young people from across the country, and from around the world in some cases, begin arriving at Hidden Villa to prepare for a season working at Summer Camp. Beginning with the application and interview process, including background checks and references, and through intensive orientation and training before and after arrival, we instill in our counselors and leaders the importance of safety. From food handling practices to positive behavior management to first aid and CPR, the ability to maintain the physical and emotional safety of the campers in our charge is the highest priority.
During orientation our summer staff role play emergency scenarios, learn about age-appropriate characteristics, and mandated reporting. Camper forms are meticulously reviewed and medical and developmental needs are noted, all in the service of providing a healthy and positive environment.
We recruit a diverse staff from an array of backgrounds, ethnicities and family structures so that all campers may have an opportunity to see themselves reflected in their role models at camp. Daily conversations, sometimes casual, and often more structured as campers mature, allow participants to give voice to their thoughts and emotions in safe setting of respect and acceptance.
One of our summer staff, Alec, describes Hidden Villa’s mission as providing “…a community in which social and environmental justice are advocated, and in which campers and counselors alike are able to express themselves fully and freely in an atmosphere that is fun, non-judgmental and educational. Summer Camp welcomes differences in race, gender, orientation, opinion and background, and through such embrace, Camp produces young leaders who are able to promote tolerance and acceptance beyond the grounds of Hidden Villa..”
The high rate of returning campers lets us know that the children we serve, and their families, feel confident that Hidden Villa provides an environment of not only respect and emotional safety in which to grow and learn, but also a place that inspires young people to be the change they wish to see in the world.
In the words of one scholarship camper: “ Whoever you are you will be accepted here. The fact that there is a camp that makes it possible for everyone to feel comfortable is a great feeling. I love this camp for existing, and for making it possible for me to come here.”
One of our greatest rewards at Hidden Villa Summer Camp is the pleasure of seeing campers returning year after year and growing through our programs. Each arrival day we see many familiar faces—campers a little taller than the previous year, perhaps, but at home in their surroundings and vibrant with anticipation of another Hidden Villa camp experience. The most remarkable changes are often visible in our older youth, as we witness the transformation from intrepid Tipi Campers and lively Resident Campers into thoughtful and confident young people.
Over our 68 years as a Summer Camp, Hidden Villa has created a progressive learning experience. Along with challenging themselves in an outdoor environment, our Farm & Wilderness Campers are encouraged to look deeply within themselves and outward into the world around them.
The Camp Youth Leadership Training encompasses a Bay to Sea backpacking trip, and two consecutive summers of ACT, our counselor-in-training program, empowering growing campers to be youth leaders at Camp and elsewhere. Many campers return year after year, some even graduating and joining the Hidden Villa staff. Fully half of our spaces for older youth are dedicated to scholarship campers, and it’s inspiring to know the perspectives brought to all of our campers by those scholarship recipients who go on to become a part of our summer staff.
These three leadership programs challenge teenagers to broaden their sense of themselves either by embracing a new outdoor adventures or beginning to lead younger campers. Participants work with mentors and build friendships in a beautiful outdoor setting, “Frank’s Garden” alongside Adobe Creek, while learning leadership skills that will empower them to make positive changes in themselves, their communities and the world.
With a 2012 campwide enrollment of 1183, our largest ever, we were able to provide $165,000 in financial aid, with close to 40% of our residential campers receiving assistance. We were excited to welcome 155 campers into our programs for youth entering 8th-12th grades. We received the following from the parent of a camper embarking upon her sixth summer at Hidden Villa Summer Camp
“I wanted to just say a quick, once again, thanks! You and the Hidden Villa staff clearly have some kind of magic going on up there. I've never seen so many happy TEENAGE faces as I saw today! The girls were beside themselves last night as they talked about camp and how thrilled they were that it was "finally here!" …I am an education researcher and used to be in the classroom teaching, and I have never seen such excited teens as I saw when we drove up today. I also had to laugh today when, at breakfast, the girls started already discussing next summer, and being counselors in training next summer, leading to counselors as they get older! So thank you to everyone for making summer special, and making lifetime memories.”
We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all of you who make camp possible for children and youth regardless of their economic circumstances. It is because of your support that we are able to help young people of all backgrounds build the confidence, communication skills and appreciation of natural and human beauty they need to succeed and become the leaders of tomorrow.
If you are inspired by what you read here, we would love to hear from you! Please contact us at (650) 949-9702 or email@example.com to learn more, share your story and find out how you can connect with Hidden Villa's work and programs. For farm fresh recipes from our Agriculture Crew, inspiring reflections on social and environmental justice from Hidden Villa interns and staff, gorgeous photographs and more, please visit our blog and website. Thank you for your partnership, support and important work to inspire a more just and sustainable future. We look forward to connecting with you soon!
Hidden Villa is a very special place to me. I've learned so much from the staff community, campers, environment, and feel honored to be a part of the Duveneck Family legacy that is truly lived every day at Hidden Villa. I have been working here for the past three summers and this summer I am the Seasonal Programs Manager.
The other day while walking down the farm and I heard a camp song in the distance. I looked around and saw a group from Day Camp coming up the road. They were adorned with flowers of every color and smiles that were contagious. A young boy stopped and removed a purple flower from a large bouquet he had picked. He handed the flower to me, saying he and his friends were spreading love around camp by giving out appreciation flowers, and he wanted me to know that I was appreciated. These simple, yet heartfelt moments are often the most powerful interactions at camp. Young people begin to see the positive impact they can have on the world. Campers come from diverse socio-economic, racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Coming from a wide array of perspectives, these moments take on a larger meaning. Hidden Villa nurtures young leaders who are equipped with empathy and the ability to appreciate and recognize the unique contributions of each community member.
Early this summer, a group of Rez Camp and Farm & Wilderness campers joined forces to play an exciting and creative game of Rainbow Tag. Ten groups were created, each with five campers and a counselor to facilitate discussion and decision-making among the team members. The object of the game was for each camper group to find and tag every color of the rainbow while keeping the entire group together. Campers learned to cooperate and achieve as a team, while also having a ton of fun singing songs, running around outside and chasing staff representing all colors of the rainbow.
After the game, we formed a circle on the lawn. We appreciated each other for leadership and communication skills and concluded that we were all winners since we had so much fun running around, singing songs, and collecting colors together. We closed by singing one of Josephine Duveneck's favorite songs, "Peace", as we do most nights at Hidden Villa. From the hills I gather courage, visions of the day to be, strength to lead and faith to follow, all are given unto me. Peace I ask of thee oh River, Peace, Peace, Peace.
Hidden Villa brings people together from different communities and backgrounds. Every summer a unique community of staff members create a camp program that teaches compassion, tolerance, and respect for each other and our world. Hidden Villa is a safe space, a retreat from the day-to-day chaos, where you can be exactly who you want to be, in beautiful natural surroundings, while being supported and cared for. Not only do the campers learn from us, but we learn from the campers and each other. The Duveneck legacy is still very much the heart of Hidden Villa as we all evolve together into the leaders of tomorrow.
I cannot imagine what my life would be like today without Hidden Villa or the amazing community we are so fortunate to be a part of. Thank you so much for making this diverse community possible by supporting our Summer Camp scholarship fund. Building community across lines of difference is critical to creating a world where all people are empowered and invited to participate. Without your support, we would not be able to provide the learning spaces where campers of all backgrounds grow into creative thinkers and empathetic leaders. We are deeply grateful to be supported by a community of such thoughtful and conscientious friends.
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