Welcoming and Belonging

In all of our programs, we strive to ensure each individual feels they belong to a caring community that values each person’s unique background, talents, and contributions. We not only celebrate differences – we believe they are essential to the kind of people and organization we want to be.

What We’re Working On

Summer 2021

For Staff

  • DEI Pre-Camp Training Sessions: These 90-minute DEI sessions, completed in pre-camp, focus on self-awareness in connection with social awareness and understanding “isms” with an intersectional focus on race and gender.
  • Facilitating Difficult Conversations: This training module centers around facilitation tools and tips; differences between dialogue and debate/discussion; and scenario work practicing facilitation with realistic camp scenarios.
  • CIT Facilitation Training: This education session, including facilitation training and scenario work, is designed for our counselors-in-training, such as First- and Second-Year Apprentices (Horizons), Midis (Hive/Aloha), and Second-Year Bridgers (Lanakila).
  • Open Table DEI Dinner Discussions: Facilitated by Aloha Foundation DEI Manager Arlynn Polletta, these conversations offer an opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, and build connections.
  • Ongoing Professional Development: These varied sessions are offered throughout the summer to staff on self-awareness, unpacking whiteness, and additional DEI topics.

For Campers and Staff

  • Camp Assembly on Micro-aggressions/Micro-affirmations: This camp assembly, offered in developmentally appropriate versions for younger or older audiences, is designed to support campers in developing an awareness of the impact of comments and behaviors that perpetuate discrimination and stereotyping.
  • Affinity Spaces: Inspired by campers and facilitated by counselors with specific training, affinity spaces are optional and designed for campers with shared identities to gather, connect, and share lived experiences. Some affinity spaces initiated by campers this summer included BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), Latinx(e), and LGBTQIA+ groups.
  • Responsive Ongoing Individual and Group DEI Support: Arlynn is available to work with campers and staff on DEI-related issues as they come up during the summer. Here are some of the needs that arose, which Arlynn supported this summer.
    • Topsider Topics: Designed for the eldest Hive campers this summer called Topsiders, campers explore identity development through visual art and small group discussions.
    • Dialogue Skills: Hillsiders at Lanakila practice dialogue skills by working through realistic camp scenarios.
    • Camp Assemblies: Campers and counselors in an affinity group at Aloha created an assembly focused on the significance and individuality of hair in different cultures, which was then shared at Hive.
    • Scattered Evening Activities: These evening program activities are offered for campers to explore identity and self-awareness (ex. Self Expression Through Performance Poetry).
    • Songbook Discussions: Campers opt into conversations on changes and additions to the camp songbooks.


What We’re Reading and Listening To

Do you have a book, podcast, article, film, activity, or other resource you’ve found meaningful? We love to share recommendations from our community. Here are a few suggestions we received this summer.

  • Fire Keeper’s Daughter: Angeline Boulley’s debut novel
  • You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience: by Tarana Burke and Dr. Brené Brown
  • Pod Save The People (Crooked Media, hosted by DeRay Mckesson)
  • Seeing White (Scene on Radio, hosted by John Biewen)

What We’ve Accomplished


  • Revised 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.
  • Hired a new DEI Manager, who is implementing and evaluating changes for this summer and beyond, and offering her expertise as we develop the Aloha Foundation’s long-term DEI goals. Arlynn Polletta 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.
  • Engaged the Board of Trustees and year-round Foundation staff in DEI educational sessions.
  • CSSS Training: This was an opportunity for staff to participate in a three-day virtual DEI training led by the Center for the Study of Sports in Society (CSSS) prior to arriving at pre-camp.
  • Zoom check-in time with Arlynn prior to camp: Staff members who participated in the CSSS training connected with DEI Manager Arlynn Polletta via Zoom to discuss pre-camp sessions and ongoing DEI work. Those staff members also served as facilitators during DEI trainings.


  • 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.

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.

Read Our Stories Here

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.

Please contact us at dei@alohafoundation.org
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