Our differences make our community strong.
The Aloha Foundation helps people become their best selves by creating a diverse community rooted in the values of trust, safety, inclusion, and belonging.
What We’re Working On
- Revise the Aloha Foundation’s comprehensive training plan—for seasonal staff arriving in June 2021—with a focus on creation of new content, consistency in the experience across programs, and identification and preparation of the most effective trainers for different topics.
- Conduct search for the new DEI Manager, who will focus on implementing and evaluating changes for summer 2021 and offer expertise as we develop the Aloha Foundation’s long-term DEI goals. This individual will serve on a contract basis for 6-8 months—an approach that will allow us to establish our long-term goals. Our aim is to hire a permanent team member who has the experience and skillset that best match our needs in the years ahead.
- Engage the Board of Trustees and year-round Foundation staff in DEI educational sessions.
Humans of Aloha
Inspired by Humans of New York
We created a public space for marginalized groups to share their experiences while at our Foundation programs. Through many different platforms and publications, we celebrate the positive impact of camp—it is less often we pause to listen and reflect on the times when we should have and could have done better. Improving our understanding is a key part of our commitment to make both immediate and lasting change and ensure we are, each and every day, a community that welcomes and celebrates differences.
Every Friday, from July to December 2020 on social media and on this web page, we shared an anonymous story from one of our brave community members.
What We’ve Accomplished
- Completed working group assignments. Five groups of staff, alumni, and parents met to create recommendations related to specific areas of focus that emerged from the summer listening sessions: 1) staff training 2) counseling strategies including Success Counseling 3) singing and songbooks 4) defining our commitment to a “Child’s World”, and 5) research on Mamie Cochran, one of our camps’ founders.
- Continued “Humans of Aloha” social media series and web page for marginalized groups to share their experiences in our Aloha Foundation programs.
- Featured a two-page spread on DEI topics by three Task Force and working group members (Alisha Lawrence, Chris Sarkis, and Rebecca Sigel) in the fall 2020/winter 2021 Reveille, our community-wide newsletter sent twice or three times a year to about 4,000 constituents.
- Created the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force. The eight-person group includes the Executive Director, two Trustees, and five staff members (current and former/year-round and seasonal).
- Launched the new DEI web page on alohafoundation.org to keep the community and public informed about our work.
- Began the “Humans of Aloha” social media series and web page for marginalized groups to share their experiences in our Aloha Foundation programs.
- Hosted a virtual Aloha Community-Wide Town Hall.
- Hosted segmented listening sessions and discussion groups for our community.
- Featured a DEI update written by Trustee Verna Cleveland, Chair of the DEI Task Force, in the Key Insights quarterly publication, mailed to about 1,000 of our most engaged constituents.
Some Key Milestones in Our History
The Gulick family bought the property that is now Aloha Camp on Lake Morey and hosted gatherings for family and friends. 1905 marked the first official season for Aloha Camp, with 22 campers. At that time, bringing girls to camp was radical, as boys were considered to be up to outdoor challenges, not young women. Harriet Gulick (“Mother Gulick”) credits Mamie Cochran, family cook and caretaker, as one of two people who suggested the property would be a lovely spot for a camp for girls. In a Scamp Spirit newsletter tribute in 1922, after Mamie’s passing, Mother Gulick wrote, “She was full of the real Aloha spirit long before Aloha was known…I can see her resolute face in 1904 when she said, ‘Sure it will be a success. I’ll do the cooking and we’ll make a go of it together.'” Aloha Club, our camp for women 18 to 80, hosted its first campers in 1910. Another progressive concept for the times, Aloha Club was located on Lake Katharine and accessible only by canoe. Aloha Hive, a camp for younger girls, opened in 1915 on neighboring Lake Fairlee.
1920s through 1960s
Lanakila’s first camp season was in 1922. During this period, the Gulick family invited international counselors from a broad range of countries to camp, including England, Sweden, France, and others. Recognizing the value and importance of a diverse community, camp leaders and alumni created to provide camperships and allow more children to attend the Alohas. Today, we welcome more than 100 campers and counselors from places around the world like Mexico, Hong Kong, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Italy, New Zealand, Colombia, South Africa, Australia, the Philippines, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
In 1968, when there was no longer a successor in the Gulick family who wanted to lead the camps, Aloha, Hive, and Lanakila were at risk of closing. A group of dedicated alumni and parents who loved the Alohas stepped in to save the camps by creating a nonprofit organization, the Aloha Foundation.
1970s through 2010s
Aloha Foundation leadership cultivated relationships and forged partnerships with organizations, primarily based in Boston and NYC, that were working in communities of color to help us recruit children who would thrive at camp. Although the Aloha Foundation is not religiously affiliated, in the 1970s, we developed a longstanding connection with Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn, New York, a partnership created thanks to close friends of the Alohas. In 2005, the Diversity Fund was created as part of the Centennial Campaign. The following year, the Aloha Foundation leadership team participated in a diversity retreat to discuss the future vision for the camps. The Board of Trustees created the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce in 2011, which presented recommendations and adopted the Diversity Values Statement:
The Aloha Foundation believes that diversity at all levels is essential to our mission and enriches our community. As an educational organization, the Aloha Foundation is committed to fostering a multiplicity of backgrounds, interests, values, experiences, cultural viewpoints, and beliefs.
We therefore strive to:
- Provide meaningful opportunities for Aloha community members to learn from the experiences and appreciate the perspectives of people with backgrounds significantly different from their own.
- Increase the social, racial, and economic diversity of the Foundation’s camps, programs, staff, and Board.
In 2014, thanks to funding from the Diversity Fund, the Hulbert Outdoor Center launched a pilot leadership program, designed for a group of 60 students from diverse communities. The Success Leadership Program, which has continued to grow in popularity since its inaugural year, consists of onsite teambuilding, leadership, and community project sessions, followed by participants sharing their knowledge in their home schools and leading school-wide projects to benefit their communities. Five years later, a total of 230 students from 10 schools participated.
With peers from other Vermont non-profits, in 2018, program directors and leaders engage in a four-month-long cultural competency training project with CQ Strategies, based in Burlington, VT. In 2019, all full-time staff attend a one-day session with CQ Strategies with the goals of strengthening our understanding and appreciation of each other.
Purpose Statement of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force is a collaboration of a diverse group of Aloha Foundation community members. This group will serve the community by reviewing concerns, making recommendations to Aloha Foundation leaders, and at times supporting implementation of recommendations in an effort to give the most thoughtful and objective feedback possible and aid in movement towards resolution. The Task Force is a safe space for all voices to be heard and amplified.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force
established summer 2020 by the Aloha Foundation Board of Trustees
Vanessa has been involved in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work through experiential and outdoor settings for the last 15 years. Her introduction to DEI was with Outward Bound and an immersive program for middle school students in Boston. Her engagement expanded to schools and communities around the US, designing curriculum and developing community based nonprofits; communities and groups in pursuit of better results and lasting change. She is a recent graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute. Vanessa is the Aloha Foundation’s Executive Director and lives in Vermont with her family.
Verna’s background is in marketing and organizational development. She has an MBA in Executive Management from the Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University. Verna is a former political strategist whose clients have included Hillary Clinton, Georgia Governor Roy Barnes, and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. Verna has over 20 years of non-profit board leadership experience currently serving on four boards, including the Aloha Foundation. She has more than ten years of experience in advancing the work of DEI at her daughters’ school in Atlanta, and is chairing the Aloha Foundation DEI Task Force.
Sigel’s background is in long-term planning and non-profit leadership. Her current professional practice as a freelance consultant leverages a background in strategic planning, business planning, analysis and intervention in systems of inequality, and racial equity frameworks, with a focus on facilitating performing art with defined social impact. Sigel’s work is further informed by a Master’s in Public Policy from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, with a capstone on Racial Equity in Artist Compensation and Support for the San Francisco Arts Commission. Sigel was a longtime camper and counselor.
Alisha is a fashion/costume designer and activist from Dumfries, VA and currently resides in Atlanta, GA. In 2019, she earned a Master’s in Law, Justice, & Culture from Ohio University with a focus on Anti-Black Racism, Critical Race Theory, Identity Politics, African American Studies, and Political Science. While at Ohio University, Alisha served as the President of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the university’s theatre program. She joined our community in 2017 as a counselor at Aloha, and since 2018 has been a Unit Head and is now a Staff Advisory Board member. Alisha is excited to be a part of Aloha’s DEI Taskforce and is dedicated to changing Aloha for the better!
Joi comes from a long line of DEI leaders. She’s found a passion for this work through her love of the Aloha Foundation and years spent as a camper and counselor. She didn’t always get the support and community she needed, but is excited to help give all future campers and counselors the environment they need to thrive in Foundation programs. She was the Foundation’s year-round social media and communications coordinator from 2018 until fall 2020, using her master’s in journalism to help community members tell their stories and have their voices heard.
Chris Sarkis, a counselor at Horizons since 2017, grew up in the Upper Connecticut River Valley as the child of two Lebanese immigrants and went to Woodsville High School. This year, he graduated with a degree in music education from SUNY Potsdam. He’s passionate about inclusive education practices, diverse representation in the classroom and elsewhere, and process-focused, informal learning. Chris is looking forward to bringing his perspective and passion as an educator and Horizonite to the DEI Taskforce.
Ross’ commitment to DEI work traces back to his passion and career in outdoor education. He has always believed that nature should be accessible to all people and to use the resources available at the Foundation to carry out that mission has been his drive since beginning year-round work at Hulbert five years ago. When he’s not facilitating programs here on campus, he loves to spend time on Lake Morey. He also serves the local community on the Fairlee Fire Department and FAST Squad.
David has served on the Aloha Foundation Board of Trustees since 2015 and is the Chair of its Audit and Finance Committee. He and his family have attended family camp at Aloha every year since 2008. David teaches courses for undergraduates, MBA students, and mid-career professionals on social enterprise and nonprofit management at Boston University. David previously worked for 20 years in nonprofit management positions in the fields of education, community development, community service, and child welfare.
Share your experience or ask a question
Feedback, comments, or questions to share? We invite Aloha Foundation community members to email us to set up a time to talk or complete the anonymous form below. Participant feedback will be considered anonymous unless individuals specify otherwise.