Equity & Inclusion
The Shape of Our Community
Inclusion in Aloha Foundation Programs
There are many dimensions of identity that shape who we are. Background, social identities, personal interests, and many other factors impact each person’s experiences in the world and at camp. We know recognizing the complexities of these dimensions is essential in affirming everyone in our community. We value the diversity that enriches the Alohas and strive to create a sense of belonging for all who are part of our community.
While these philosophies have been consistently part of our programs in practice, stating them clearly is an important part of our efforts. We know our programs are not the right fit for everyone. If you have a specific question, please contact us prior to enrollment to make sure the Aloha programs are the right fit.
Aloha, Hive, & Lanakila: We see value in creating intentional communities centered in the experiences of girls and young women (Aloha/Hive) and boys and young men (Lanakila), while also being inclusive of wide range of gender identities.
Some benefits of single-gender programs include:
- The ability to learn, grow, and take risks in environments free of cross-gender pressures
- The opportunity to disrupt societal constraints, stereotypes, and traditional perceptions of what it means to be a “girl” or “boy”
- The potential for developing strong relationships with mentors and role models that share similar lived experiences
- For girls programs – the creation of safe, supportive, celebratory spaces in response to environments that have historically excluded girls and women.
- (These benefits are inspired by Transplaining)
Affirming LGBTQIA+ Youth & Staff
Supporting Ability & Neurodiversity
Affinity spaces are identity-based groups that allow people who share an identity to connect, talk openly about issues related to that identity, and brainstorm positive action steps for promoting inclusion and equity. These groups center around historically marginalized identities and provide unique opportunities for safe, authentic sharing. In our programs, affinity spaces are intentionally camper-centered and designed to meet the needs of young people at varying levels of awareness and understanding of identity.
Who can join an affinity group?
Anyone who identifies with that particular identity is welcome to join the group. There may also be occasions when allies are invited to participate. The goal is that the affinity group members feel they can safely express themselves without having to worry about others who may not understand their experience because they are of another identity. For those who experience discrimination and marginalization, these groups serve as powerful sources of energy and support.
Don’t affinity groups create more separation and exclusion?
Just the opposite – these groups are meant to enhance our commitment to inclusivity and are only “exclusive” in order to create safe spaces for people who may experience discomfort in the larger community. During affinity group meetings, people can share freely and without inhibition about their experiences. These groups help people feel more visible and valued as part of the wider community.
What do affinity spaces look like at camp? Do they conflict with other camp activities?
Joining a group is always optional, and discussions are offered during times that don’t conflict with other activities. Affinity spaces should support the needs of each community, so groups might differ from camp to camp. Facilitators of the affinity groups are specifically trained to guide camper-centered, developmentally appropriate conversations. The affinity spaces are joyful, celebratory, and lots of fun!
What are pronouns?
Pronouns are the words campers and staff may use in place of their proper names. Examples include “she/her” or “he/him” or gender-neutral pronouns, such as “they/them”. Some people use specific pronouns, any pronouns, or none at all.
Why do we share pronouns at camp?
Including pronouns is a first step toward respecting people’s identities and creating a more welcoming space for everyone in our community. Sharing pronouns on name cookies and in conversations allows campers and staff to self-identify instead of making assumptions about people’s identities and the pronouns they use.
What if I get someone’s pronoun wrong?
Don’t worry, learning pronouns takes practice. We know that sharing pronouns might be new for campers and staff. Mistakes happen, and we want to ensure that everyone feels comfortable asking questions and can continue to learn and grow.
Equity & Inclusion Statement
We strive to ensure each person is valued for who they are and what they bring to the community.
This means creating environments that invite people not simply to “fit in” but to feel a deep sense of belonging. We are working to increase support and access for those who have been historically underrepresented in our community in an effort to create a more equitable future for the organization as a whole. We aim to foster the strong relationships that are at the heart of our mission.
At the Alohas, we are committed to:
- Designing programs that work for all members of our community
- Centering impartiality and fairness in policies, procedures, and distribution of resources
- Clearly understanding and defining the limitations of our organization
- Taking action to remove barriers that prevent full engagement in our programs
- Affirming the various perspectives that enrich our collective experiences
- Centering relationship-building that honors each person’s identity
- Valuing every individual’s unique contributions as we learn and grow together
What We’re Working On
We’ve been busy! In fall 2021, we launched the inaugural Facilitation Fellowship Team. Learn more about this new team below.
Introducing…the Facilitation Fellowship Team!
The Facilitation Fellowship Team helps grow and further align programs, build leadership capacity, recruit, and retain staff and campers from underrepresented groups, and continue to strengthen our camps and programs. Each Fellow brings their own experience, creativity, collaborative spirit, and commitment to equity.
Fellows participate in ongoing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) professional development training; co-facilitate three training sessions; support and attend two or more regional recruitment efforts; attend regular virtual team meetings with the other Fellows, the Equity, Inclusion & Outreach Director, and invited guests; write pieces for Aloha Foundation publications or blog; serve as a resource for other counselors; and work to support ongoing projects and spearhead new initiatives related to equity and community.
Facilitation Fellows share their “why”:
What We've Accomplished
- Summer 2021
- Winter/Spring 2021
- Fall 2020
- Summer 2020
- New Partnerships: Foundation and seasonal staff members visited Harlem Academy in February to learn more about the school community and build connections with students and families. Five new campers from Harlem Academy joined the Aloha, Hive, and Lanakila communities this summer. The Aloha Foundation will also partner with the Anne Shore Sleep-Away Camp Program, Cincinnati Country Day School, and KIPP Capital Region Public Charter Schools in 2023.
- Facilitation Fellowship Team Education Sessions: In the spring, fellows designed and facilitated virtual education sessions for staff on the importance of equity and inclusion at camp and creating belonging through affinity spaces.
- E&I Pre-Camp Training Sessions: Equity and inclusion sessions completed in pre-camp focused on self-awareness in connection with social awareness, implicit bias, understanding cultural differences, and navigating critical conversations.
- Speak About It Training: Facilitators from Speak About It led an engaging workshop on staff culture and consent education for residential camp staff during pre-camp.
- New Staff Check-Ins: Foundation staff offered opportunities for open dialogue with new staff members about their experiences and finding a sense of belonging at camp.
- CIT Facilitation Training: This education session, including facilitation training and scenario work, was designed for our counselors-in-training, such as First- and Second-Year Apprentices (Horizons), Midis (Hive/Aloha), and Second-Year Bridgers (Lanakila).
- Ongoing Professional Development: These varied sessions were offered throughout the summer to staff on self-awareness, unpacking whiteness, and additional DEI topics.
For Campers and Staff
- Camp Assembly: This assembly on the song Aloha ‘Oe was part of our ongoing work to contextualize some beloved songs in our songbooks. Chris Sarkis (2022 E&I Fellow) worked with a Hawaiian musician to learn more about the historical context and correct pronunciation of lyrics in Aloha ‘Oe and shared his knowledge with campers.
- 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), LGBTQIA+ groups, Neurodiversity, and Jewish groups.
- Hair Care: Professionals specializing in protective hairstyles visited camp this summer to offer styling for campers of color.
- Responsive Ongoing Individual and Group DEI Support: Arlynn and E&I Facilitation Fellows were available to work with campers and staff on DEI-related issues as they came up during the summer.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Humans of Aloha
We created a public space for marginalized groups to share their experiences while in our Aloha Foundation programs. Every Friday, from July to December 2020 on social media and on Our Stories, we shared an anonymous story from one of our brave community members.
Some Key Milestones in Our History
1920s through 1960s
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.
We offer camps and programs for people of all ages. Let’s talk about you, your child, your family – and discover together which experience you would value most. There are many options and possibilities!