By YEA Camp Founder + Director Nora Kramer
For the past 15 years, YEA Camp has run life-changing overnight in-person camps for teens and adults who want to make a bigger difference in the world.
We’ve trained thousands of up-and-coming changemakers to get started or get serious on the social justice causes they care about.
And we’re super proud of the impact we’ve made over these years.
We’ve lost track of the number of people who have told us that YEA Camp changed their life. We know YEA Camp has achieved great things because our campers and staff have achieved great things and told us YEA Camp helped them achieve them.
Nothing that I am about to say below can change that, or is intended to minimize the beauty, achievements, relationships, and goodness that have come from what we have created together over these past 15 years.
Fulfilling YEA Camp’s Mission
I’ve been struggling with how to say this for a while now, but I’m just going to say it.
The mission of YEA Camp was never to run a camp.
YEA Camp’s mission is to help more people make a bigger difference to bring about social justice.
A camp was the format that I chose to fulfill that mission way back in 2001 when I first started developing this program, and when we launched in 2009, and ever since. A camp is what made the most sense to me back then.
But I now believe that there are more strategic ways for us to fulfill this mission.
That’s why, after much thought and discussion, I’ve decided that we won’t be holding YEA Camp in person this summer. We may hold it again in the future, but we will not be doing an in-person camp in the summer of 2024.
Changing With the Times
Back in the early years of YEA Camp, platforms that are extremely popular today and that can reach literally anyone on the planet with the Internet (smartphones, podcasts, YouTube, online courses, and sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc.), either didn’t exist or were not yet widely accessible ways to reach people.
My goal when starting YEA Camp was to help as many people as possible become effective activists for social change.
Without all of those other platforms, a summer camp seemed like a strategic, inspirational, and super fun way to do that.
And it was. I mean, it still is an incredible way to provide in-depth, holistic training to help people who are passionate about a cause to take effective action and make a bigger difference in the world.
But our costs have increased significantly. The 2023 camp cost double what we paid in 2019. We’ve always been committed to offering financial aid and making the camp accessible, which makes it extra hard to get the numbers to work.
With so many new opportunities to expand our impact in more cost-effective ways, we have actually been moving in this direction for several years. It’s the reason we chose to only do 1 session each of the past 2 summers after doing 3 sessions per summer for the 10 years before the pandemic — in order to downsize and streamline our work so that we could expand to create new programs online.
When we got the news recently that the beautiful venue we’ve been at the past 2 summers had been sold and is no longer available, it felt like the writing was on the wall for us to take a hiatus this summer to re-evaluate and be able to move forward with other ideas.
They say “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And during the pandemic, that was definitely true for us. We found many creative ways to bring our core camp curriculum out into the world.
Right at the start of the pandemic I started offering classes over Zoom called the Changemakers Challenge. I taught these classes every Monday-Friday for 3 months, which I absolutely loved and which got great reviews. Also in the first weeks of quarantine, a group of about 20 past YEA Campers and staff started meeting regularly over Zoom to brainstorm alternatives to doing camp in-person.
We ended up creating Virtual YEA Camp, which we did for 10 amazing week-long sessions over 2020-2021.
These were our first real forays into online programs, and they were great successes. (I’ve started retroactively referring to this time as YEA 2.0 and this new move for us as YEA 3.0)
In addition to those great programs, we had lots of other ideas that we didn’t do. We knew we couldn’t do all the ideas. But those ideas, and lots of new ones, have stuck with me.
The Possibilities Are Endless
We are really just limited by our imagination and resources, but some of our ideas of programs we could create in the years to come include:
- Online courses about topics we teach at YEA Camp for people of all ages to watch anytime
- A podcast interviewing inspiring changemakers and role models
- Online activist school to teach people how to make a bigger difference
- Text and email challenges to support people getting started and being more effective
- An online resource center to help people just starting out
- Membership program for on-demand videos and training
- Group coaching for community support
- Youtube/TikTok/Instagram video trainings to reach anyone with the internet and any curiosity about social change
- Homeschool, in-school, and after-school curriculum to share our work with students, parents, and teachers
- Outschool Zoom classes to reach students where they are
- Building out and more strategically promoting my ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World, to reach more people
- In-person trainings at conferences, festivals, large summer camps, school assemblies, or other events
And lots more possibilities.
Of course we still can’t do all of the ideas! But that’s where you come in!
We will be going through a strategic planning process to evaluate the best next moves for us. We’ve got lots of content already created and will start sharing that on different platforms and iterating as we go.
We’re still a teeny organization with a big vision, but without the in-person camp, which takes so much of our time and resources to put on, we will have more bandwidth to work on these new ideas and re-evaluate from there.
There will be ways for you to get involved, if you want to be!
One way you can start is by filling out this form! We would love to hear your ideas, suggestions, contacts, or visions for the future of YEA Camp or how you would like to be involved.
You can sign up for our email list here to be kept in the loop about our new programs and resources.
A year from now we might decide that we want to go back to doing the camp in person. With more time, we can research another great venue for summer 2025. Or, maybe we don’t move back to in-person in that format. There’s a lot to consider and many possibilities.
As sad as I am about not doing camp in-person this summer, I’m inspired by the possibilities to expand our impact.
And of course, the more resources we have, the more programming we can deliver, the more lives we can impact. If you’re inspired and able to help support making this new vision a reality, it will be a huge help.
15 Amazing Years
This year is our 15th anniversary! I can’t believe it.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be sharing some favorite memories and achievements to reminisce and celebrate our accomplishments. We’d love for you to share any of your reflections here.
As we approach the new year, I am trying to embrace the unknown.
While I’m nervous about this pivot in our work, I’m confident that it’s the right strategic move for us. I feel we at least have to try.
I hope that those of you who have believed in us, supported us, been part of our programs over the past 15 years — as campers, staff, parents, volunteers, donors, advisors, friends, and fans — will continue to believe in us and stay engaged in our work.
To me, YEA Camp has always been a labor of love. And it has always been much more difficult in the winter because I’m often “laboring” alone. The memories of last summer are fading, and the next summer feels far away.
Now everything feels even farther and more uncertain and lonely.
But I am optimistic and excited. I know that our next phase will be easier to create than developing YEA Camp from scratch was all those years ago.
And that all of the amazing experiences, people, and learnings of the past 15 years will help us make an even bigger impact.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for all the ways you’ve contributed to YEA Camp and to my life personally and professionally over the years, and for all you do to make our world a better place.
I will always be grateful for achieving my dreams in creating and running YEA Camp for all these years.
I’m sure only a small fraction of the countless people who helped make it possible will ever read or hear these words, so extra thanks to those who do.
Whatever ways you have been involved in YEA Camp (or not), feel free to reach out to me anytime at nora @ yeacamp.org if you want to talk more about any of this, reminisce about YEA Camp, or to plan our next steps as we continue to work to help more people make a bigger difference to bring about social justice.