Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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“I’ve struggled to grasp my identity for a while, but really, I found out who I was at camp.” -Hazel (camper)

At the core of a successful camp experience for any child is their well-being. Each child should feel that they belong, are included, and bring value to the community. To achieve this takes intentional thought and action. Our decisions and actions are guided by our values as a Reform Jewish Summer Camp, and it is important that our community members – campers, staff, volunteers, and families – are familiar with and aligned with our philosophy. 

We strive to exemplify and celebrate the diverse, vibrant, and colorful fabric of the Jewish community. To advance our efforts to create an open and safe community, we have worked to amplify the voices of those who have been historically marginalized. Sci-Tech works closely with the URJ’s REDI (Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) team and our year-round and summer inclusion consultants and professionals to ensure we are building an intentionally welcoming community. In partnership with community members, educators, and our professional staff, we are working on promoting racial and ethnic diversity, celebrating the voices of our LGBTQ community (including facilitating the accommodations of our transgender and nonbinary campers), planning for and accommodating campers with disabilities and identified needs, supporting the emotional well-being of our campers and staff, and so much more!  

Throughout the camp experience, we hope that our campers and staff strengthen their self-esteem, sense of self, and connection to the Jewish community with the supportive nature of our people, staff, and programs. Our camper-to-staff pipeline facilitates the creation of a community built l’dor v’dor – from generation to generation. Many of our staff understand the importance of feeling accepted, as they share similar experiences as our campers since many of them were campers themselves! They are passionate about what it means to build and be a part of an inclusive kehilah kedosha (holy community). 

Camper Care and Inclusion

In keeping with our camp’s mission and core values and to further our commitment to being an inclusive community, Sci-Tech seeks to provide a meaningful Jewish Camp experience to children who are part of the Jewish community, regardless of need.  We employ a team of professionals who utilize their skills and expertise to support full-time and summer staff members and to ensure campers have a successful and fun camp experience. We are proud to work year-round with two incredible inclusion consultants, who then guide our Directors and our summer Camper Care and Inclusion team as they work directly with campers and families who may require a greater level of support to succeed at camp.  

Who is on the Sci-Tech Camper Care Team?

The Sci-Tech Camper Care Team, which is led by Director Jayme Dale Mallindine, partners with: 

  • Families 
  • Teachers 
  • Clinical social workers and school guidance counselors
  • Special education teachers 
  • Psychologists
  • All other necessary professionals all year long to support campers over the summer 
Our Commitment to Universal Design

Our talented Inclusion and Community Care team works with all staff to create and facilitate resources that are available to all campers. Programs are intentionally designed through the lens of differentiated learning and camper choice. Grounded in the theory of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), our project-based and curiosity-led approach to STEM learning and community-building helps motivate and excite campers, allowing campers to discover new information in ways that resonate for them. ALL staff receives training on inclusion, and how to support the variety of emotional needs our campers bring with them to camp, including our dorm counselors and workshop instructors! 

Universal Design Elements available to all campers: 

  • Dorms allow for children who need privacy to have alone/downtime  in a safe and supervised environment 
  • Campers already have shared interests with other campers based on workshops and choice-based activities 
  • Meal service allows children with food sensitivities, picky eaters, and children with allergies to have options, and all foods are labeled with allergens (i.e., GF, contains soy, Vegan, etc.) 
  • Pocket/Mini Schedules are distributed daily to any camper who wants one 
  • Break spaces throughout camp 
  • Fidgets 
  • Disposable Earplugs 
  • Staff are trained in transition supports (I.e., telling kids ahead of time when a transition is about to happen), social skills supports, and conflict resolution 
  • Posted visual reminders for morning and bedtime routines 
  • Instructors are trained in multi-modal instruction and provide written, visual, and verbal instructions 
  • New campers come every year due to the unique nature of specialty camping, so staff are trained to help integrate new folks into the camp community 
Camper Application Consideration

In addition to the universal elements available to everyone, each camper is carefully considered as soon as a family submits a camper application, with input from parents, guardians, teachers, and other professionals on an individualized basis to determine the types of accommodations needed and appropriateness for our program. Families work in partnership with our inclusion professionals to ensure the camper’s success for the summer. This may include a more comprehensive intake, collaboration with professionals who work with your child, and maintaining regular communication throughout the off-season as we prepare for the summer. 

Sci-Tech has successfully integrated children with various support needs into the community since we began in 2014! We have found that with the right support, campers with various diagnoses can be very successful at camp, including but not limited to: 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders 
  • ADHD 
  • Cognitive delays 
  • Executive functioning delays 
  • Mental health diagnoses, such as depression and anxiety 
  • Learning disabilities 
  • RFID 
  • As well as many, many others! 
Inclusion Blogs

Read more about how welcoming our community is from our campers and faculty! 

Blog 2023https://6pointsscitech.org/2023/07/15/my-journey/ 

Blog 2023 – https://6pointsscitech.org/2023/07/06/stem-requires-courage/ 

Gender and LGBTQ+ Inclusivity

We are a welcoming and safe community for all LGBTQ+ individuals and families. While campers are housed by gender, we affirm camper and staff member’s identity by including them in the bunk of the gender they identify with and/or where they feel most comfortable. Sci-Tech has successfully accommodated transgender and nonbinary campers for the majority of time we’ve been around as a camp, and we continue to do so today. We welcome the opportunity to work with families to ensure that any camper’s personal needs are met.  

“Our Jewish values speak to how each of us – created in God’s image, B’tzelem Elohim – has a unique talent with which we can contribute to the high moral purpose of Tikkun Olam (repair of our world). Excluding anyone from our community lessens our chance of achieving this goal or a more perfect world.” 

– Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism 

Environmental and Programming Supports for LGBTQ+ Campers
  • Gender-neutral/inclusive restrooms in various locations throughout camp 
  • Privacy for showering and changing 
  • Signage and language around housing that reflects our values and our diversity (i.e., calling dorms by the name of the dorm rather than by gender) 
  • Professional training by Keshet, a Jewish LGBTQ advocacy organization, for all staff  
  • “Express Yourself Day” (also known as Pride Day Friday), during which many LGBTQ campers and staff wear rainbow or LGBTQ+ identifying colors to celebrate that part of their identity 
  • Optional pronoun bracelets are offered at the end of camper check-in on opening day so campers who want to display their preferred pronouns at camp can choose to  

Inclusion Q & A

Q: Why do you share pronouns when introducing one another?

The sharing of pronouns is an easy way to establish that we are a community that values people’s gender identities, and we do not take for granted that someone’s pronouns are not always clear to the observer.  Most youth spaces now ask this question, and while we don’t force anyone to share, we find that it is often much appreciated and helps everyone start out on a level playing field. Campers are never required to share their pronouns out loud at camp and are not required to wear the optional pronoun bracelets available at check-in. 

Q: Will there be transgender/non-binary campers in my child’s dorm/as my child’s roommate?

Sci-Tech is a camp that affirms gender identity through living arrangements.  Campers are able to choose where they are most comfortable living, with the support of their parents and in collaboration with camp professionals.  Staff members are trained on how to manage privacy for all campers who might be living with different body types.   

Q: Do you allow kids to come to camp who have been hospitalized for significant mental health concerns?

We work closely with campers, parents, clinicians, and other professionals to determine readiness after a mental health struggle that may have resulted in hospitalization.  We know that with time and the right supports, children can return to camp and have a very successful experience.  We hope to be a supportive and nurturing environment for kids on their mental health journeys, recognizing that while Sci-Tech is not a therapeutic camp, camp can be therapeutic.  We also talk with families about helping their child be able to “tell their story” in a way that does not put any pressure on their peers to do more than be a listening ear and a supportive presence. 

Q: Do you accept every camper that applies?

We strongly believe that if you wish for your child to be a part of our camp community and believe that they can adhere to the expectations, then we can be creative and innovative about how we can provide accommodations for them to be successful.  We know that navigating a neurotypical world often results in children bumping up against a lot of closed doors.  We don’t want Sci-Tech  to be one of those places.  If it is a no, it is for very good reason, usually because we do not feel we can adequately keep your child safe given their ability to manage their behavior or the resources we have available at camp. 

Q: How do you afford privacy at camp?

Each camper has their own room at camp that they share with one to three other campers. They are told from the beginning that it is okay to close the door and ask their roommate(s) to step outside while they are changing, and campers who attend camp should be prepared to provide that privacy for others. Though we know that camp can tend to be a place where kids change freely in front of each other and feel free in their bodies, we know that this is not comfortable for everyone, and we encourage kids to be discreet and maintain privacy in the bathrooms, halls, and in their rooms. The showers at camp are individual stalls, and shower time is facilitated by counselors who ensure everyone feels safe and has the privacy they need during those vulnerable moments. 

Q: Why do you do bunking by gender identity rather than by biological sex?

We recognize that children who have a different gender expression than their biological sex assigned at birth may feel more comfortable bunking with other children who express themselves in a similar manner to themselves, but this is not always 100% true.  We know that the LGBTQ adolescent population has a rate of 23% expressing suicidality.  We know that camp and the sense of belonging it provides can be a powerful protective factor for these children. 

Q: How do you help campers understand when pronouns/names might change midsummer? Would you call home to share that information?

We help campers understand that at Sci-Tech you get to be the best version of yourself – and sometimes camp gives you the freedom to explore parts of your identity that might be different than in prior summers, or than it is at home.  We respect a camper’s desire to go by different names or pronouns at camp as a way of honoring that choice and demonstrating respect.  We also honor a camper’s decision to be able to share that with their parents/family if they choose to and when they are ready to do that themselves.  We recognize that campers who are exploring gender are on a journey, and we see camp as a place that affirms identity.  

Q: How do you pay attention to the fact that everyone doesn’t come from a two-parent or heteronormative home?

Our staff are trained not to assume anything about a camper’s home life unless explained in the letter to staff that families write.  We teach our staff that our campers come from a variety of backgrounds – LGBTQ+ parent households, living with grandparents or other guardians, and single-parent homes are just as common as two-parent households.  When talking about home or encouraging campers to write home, staff will say something like “Write home to your grownup,” or “Send a letter to someone at home who loves you and will be happy to hear from you,” or “time to write home to your family.” 

Q: Do you share our child’s diagnosis/diagnoses with staff?

Diagnoses can be a private thing for many campers and families. While our full-time professional staff, inclusion consultants, and camper care leadership team will know the diagnoses based on the intake forms you submit, we do not share that information with staff by default. Every camper is unique, even if they have the same diagnosis as another camper, and we want our summer staff to treat everyone as an individual. Rather than sharing diagnoses, our leadership team shares behaviors and support strategies to help make camp a successful experience for your child! That being said, you and your camper are welcome to share their diagnoses as much as you want! Some campers are proud of or excited to share that aspect of their identity, and we 100% support a camper openly sharing aspects of themselves that they find meaningful. There’s also a chance for parents to share that directly in the “Letter to Camp Staff”, one of the many camper forms we utilize to prepare ourselves and our staff for your camper’s arrival.  

Contact Us

If you have more questions about inclusion at Sci-Tech and would like to speak directly with a member of our full-time professional team, please contact Jayme Dale Mallindine, Director, at jmallindine@urj.org or 857-246-8677.