The campfire is a magical place, and I often say that the world would benefit from more WA campfires.
WA campfires are remarkable for a number of reasons but at the root of it all is the intentional community created on each program. These groups, and we have had over 3800 of them since our inception in 1973, are a key differentiator from other residential summer camps. At many residential summer camps, a camper is in a cabin that is likely one of many within the larger camp community. Consequently, the community during those campfire moments can often be hundreds of campers.
At WA, when someone adventures with us, their community for the duration of their program will be their trip group: a small group of 10-13 students and their trip leaders. Over the past several years, these students have come from 50 states and 17 foreign countries. Additionally, due to our work with the Wilderness Adventures Foundation, students from all socio-economic backgrounds are represented. When there is diversity around the campfire and in the community, amazing things can happen.
However, historically, people of color are underrepresented at WA campfires. This is a problem for the outdoor industry as a whole, and many companies in our position might look at this institutional problem and think it is too big for them to tackle. However, as a small business that works with youth and has a solid track record of working to provide this experience to any child who wants it, we feel like we are uniquely positioned to make a difference.
Over the past few years, as we have embarked on the mission to provide more opportunities for all, we recognized that we cannot do this alone. Consequently, we have formed relationships that help us grow as individuals and make meaningful changes as an organization. One of those critical relationships is with the South Florida People of Color.
Our work with SFPOC began in 2019 and continues today. We always knew that we were not looking for a one-time training to help us with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion issues. Rather, we wanted to focus on making space for all people in all we do. Consequently, we have an ongoing relationship with SFPOC to examine our biases, look at past policies, explore possibilities and rethink our practices. Working with SFPOC has challenged us to be present in our conversations and examine who we have been, who we are, and who we intend to be. We meet several times a year, and while I know that change does not come easy or fast, we can sense that this critical work is making an impact on all that we do at WA.
This WA campfire is for you. It is for all. And we will make the space to hold ourselves to that reality. We look forward to you playing a critical role in your WA community.