At the 14Y we often say, “You belong here.” We put this value into action by creating and implementing exciting, inclusive programming. One such example is New Country Pride Camp (NCPC), a camp especially for New York’s LGBTQ+ youth.
To celebrate Pride month and NCPC’s growth in its second year, we asked two people here at the 14Y to share their thoughts about how special and unique NCPC is for campers and staff alike.
Meet Justin Perkins, Program Director of New Country Day Camp and New Country Pride Camp, and Josh Lookatch, Educational Alliance Graphic Designer.
From “Science Fiction” to Reality: The Evolution of Belonging
Justin says, “When I was a queer child, the idea of something called Pride Camp would have blown my mind. In fact, it probably would have scared me a little bit. The idea of a place where the feelings I’d been carefully hiding (and thought I would always hide) might be celebrated, might be identified with and shared, might be the very reason to come together—to 1994 me—would have sounded like science fiction.
In August of 2021, we at New Country Day Camp piloted New Country Pride Camp with a single week of programming. It was a really fulfilling way to end a challenging summer of masks and social distance because of COVID-19.
Of the many beautiful and surprising things that happened that week, probably the most beautiful and surprising to me was how normal it all felt. So much care and thought had gone into preparing for the week, and there were tons of special programs and activities, plus some jittery nerves on my part about how it was all going to go. But as soon as we came together in the beautiful woods of the Staten Island Greenbelt, it felt as natural as a big cleansing breath.
Because, of course! Of course, there should be time and space in the world for LGBTQ+ kids to talk about who they are, and to be who they are. Of course, we as LGBTQ+ people should create places for ourselves where we define what “normal” is. Since the very beginnings of queer culture, LGBTQ+ people have been creating our own spaces where we can be safe and silly and joyful and solemn and outrageous. Places where we can live all of life’s possibilities.
In this moment, when the political world and the environmental world and so many other parts of life seem to conspire to make frightening things seem normal, I’m so grateful to be a part of the lives of these kids. Grateful to watch them plant the seeds of a world where “normal” means more love, more friendship, more sharing, singing and puns and s’mores. I wish 1994 me could see it.”
L’dor V’dor: From Generation to Generation: Providing a Space for Queer Campers to be Themselves
Educational Alliance Graphic Designer Josh Lookatch told us, “Working for New Country Pride Camp last summer was easily one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Camp has always been a big piece of who I am as both a camper and a counselor. It was always a home where I could learn new things about myself and feel comfortable enough to be the best me I could be.
As I slowly realized my identity as a transgender woman, I became nervous about how being out would affect my ability to enjoy camp. So many aspects of the camp experience I grew up with revolved so closely around the gender binary that my identity rejects. I’ll never forget hearing about NCPC. It felt like my prayers had been answered.
‘L’dor V’dor’ is a phrase I hear so often in Judaism, and it means ‘from generation to generation.’ I had never resonated with that expression as much as I did at NCPC. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to give the next generation of queer campers a space to enjoy camp. I kept my name tag and the beaded necklace my campers helped me make. I keep them on my desk to look at any time I need a pick-me-up.”
Joining us during Pride Month to celebrate our welcoming, open-tent community
Help us spread the word to LGBTQ+ campers, ages 5 to 13, who could benefit from a camp that celebrates and sustains joyful, outdoor summer experiences where all can thrive. But hurry, there are only a few spots left and registration closes on Monday, June 6.
But hurry, there are only a few spots left, and registration closes on Monday, June 13. Sliding scale tuition options are available. Learn more about New Country Pride Camp at 14StreetY.org/PrideCamp.