Summer Camps for Kids of Color

Parent Q&A

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  • Overnight camps for kids of color?

    (2 replies)

    I know most camps are full for this summer, but looking ahead to next year, I’m hoping to find some good overnight camp options for our middle schooler. Does anyone know of overnight camps in Northern California (or even Southern California) that are racially diverse (campers and staff)? If they’re queer-friendly, that would be even better.

    Thank you for your help!

    My son is a person of color and he attended Camp Ravencliff ( several years running and LOVED it. It was so great to see the kids loading up in the bus at the Richmond YMCA - one of the first times he felt completely immersed in a community of kids that looked like him. They do all the classic camp stuff and it is on a river so lots of fun water stuff too.

    There was a similar question in April and parents' suggestions are here: Naturalist teen camp w/ at least some Black kids?

  • My son is a homebody so signing up for new things is always a bit of a reach. He's now 15 and very interested in animals and ecosystems. He doesn't like being the only Black kid in a group, compounded by the one time we convinced him to go to an overnight camp and he got into a fight w/ a kid who called him the "n" word. It seems like for teenagers it's mainly sleepaway and some hiking camps. I think he would be open to either if 1. there are animals or naturalist focus and 2. other Black kids.

    One benefit of COVID is that we've saved money on normal activities so we could afford to splurge. Except, the better a program looks (and costs), the fewer Black kids.

    Please don't recommend Trackers - they had really cool programming but you don't get kicked out for verified calling another camper the "n" word. 

    I wish I had recs for you, but I wanted to respond and say that that is disgusting that Trackers tolerated that. We used to go there. Gross. 

    Hi Annie in Oakland. I’m really sorry your son had that terrible experience. I don’t have a specific camp recommendation — I’m hoping others on the list do — but I wonder if might be a resource. There are a number of people in leadership roles in the Bay Area chapter and between them someone might have some leads. 

    Hi - I recommend you look into the camps at Hidden Villa, near Los Altos. They have a strong environmental focus and a long history of equity. I went to camp there as a kid and it was transformative.

    I was part of an nature connection coop with my kid for five years so I try to keep an eye out for what is out there.

    This Peralta Hacienda Saturday program is for kids 8-14 but maybe there is a counselor job he could do?

    Another option is Sienna Ranch. I know Black kids who attend there but for a specific class you might need to call to find out about class composition. I see one animal care class for his age group on the website:

    Outdoor Afro does not have camps that I know of but they do have a lot of events that your son might want to connect to:

    I’m wondering if he has a Black friend or friendly acquaintance he might be able to sign up for something with to be sure he has someone. What about the Teen Wild Guides at the Oakland Zoo?  I have seen some Black teens doing this in the past but I have no idea what the breakdown is in any given summer — if he’s interested, I bet you could ask.

    If you live in Richmond, or other western Contra Costa Co. areas, YES, Nature to Neighborhoods, has great outdoor programs for kids and teens.  Most of the participants are people of color.  Prices are reasonable and scholarships are available.  If you don't live in that area, I suggest you contact them to hear about similar organizations in other areas, and check out their website to get a sense of who they are and what they do.  Their focus is equity in access to the outdoors.

    Check out Back to Earth for backpacking programs. Last summer, when Covid closed other camps, they offered trail programs, and I felt fortunate that my teen son could participate. My son is Caucasian, but there were at least 3-4 Black teens in the group of about 12 boys, and everyone got along well. The camp is very inclusive, and the men who run the program are wonderful in guiding the adolescents during this critical time in their development. The teens bonded deeply over their ten days at camp; many of them still see each other, and they are signed up again for this summer. Back to Earth run summer backpacking camps (called WILD) and a year-long program (called Mentoring Circles). Campers learn everything from backpacking and survival skills to appreciation for nature and its gifts. There is a focus on ritual ceremonies and challenging oneself physically and mentally. Maybe this program will be a fit for your child too. Good luck!

    Sorry that he had that awful experience, and wow Trackers definitely needs some work! That's inexcusable. 

    Shaffers High Sierra camp (definitely in the splurge category!) had several Black camp counselors and other leadership staff when my kid went. I recommend calling to find out how regularly they have Black campers. I found it very easy to reach a human to answer my many questions when I was signing my kids up.

    Hi Annie

    I am horrified to hear of your son's previous experience in Tracker's camp, that's horrible and I am so sorry that happened to your son. My friend's son (who is Asian- mixed race) really enjoyed the teen volunteer programs at the Oakland Zoo. He learned a lot about animals and did this program for several years. I don't know what the races of others kids were but I think there were several non-white kids. They have a few programs listed here: