We created a 7 minute video about ACA’s 100th anniversary. You simply cannot capture 100 years in a 7 minute video. It is a snapshot - an index that precedes many chapters. An index that attempts to capture the enormous heart of ACA.
Yet, there are many faces, voices, and experiences we did not capture. Many living legends, many champions of today’s camp experience, many emerging leaders who stand arm in arm with the legends of yesterday.
But more importantly, how will we carry forward? How will it look in the next 100 years? Will the colors of our mosaic expand? Will more voices find space in our discussion? What is our promise for tomorrow? How will we tell our story? Our narrative?
I want to suggest that we start by considering ‘well founded hope’. A feeling of well being or words of promise are not enough. Instead, many are seeking answers that are convincing, reasonable, defensible, and legitimate. Well founded hope.
Let’s consider some of the top issues facing our species? Consider our children and youth. They are certainly key to true survival and yet many important elements of human development have diminished over the decades.
Take ‘play’, for example. Life is regimented, standardized, scored, and frankly less free and spontaneous. Physical activity is being reported as less than a half an hour a day for fewer than 1 in 4 young people. Our relationship with the out of doors has decreased.
Our economic, education, environmental, and demographic landscape is changing, mutating, and moving like a seismic shift under our feet.
We must rethink and reshape our dialogue and the articulation of our value proposition. If we do not, we passively accept the risk of becoming increaseingly discretionary. We may also make the choice of passively watching the slow extinction of childhood - a very critical stage of healthy development.
So our promise for tomorrow is that we have many answers to a number of today’s challenges. We can and do help stem summer learning loss. We don’t just talk about the nature deficit but we promote environmental literacy and stewardship. We don’t sit young people behind screens for endless hours or behind a desk - we engage them in the experience of learning and growing.
We have science based evidence that supports the impactful outcomes young people receive from camp. We have evidence that tells us that the camp experience is safter than most school sport’s activities. We have an understanding that developmental opportunities serve as a precursor for academic achievement.
We are an alternative, expanded learning environment that supports and promotes skills and competencies that are needed in the 21st century.
But , as we teach our campers, we must engage and reach out to others. We must listen to new voices and adopt and adapt to a new norm. If we want to serve even more children and youth in the next century we must learn to tell our story in a way that is central to the contemporary culture.
Mawi Asgedom, who spoke to us at the national conference, told us to watch for the invisible child. I remind you that you cannot help the invisible children if you are invisible. I will also ask you, “what is the risk if we suffer both invisible children and disappearing childhood?” Neither should be marginalized if we want to see more graduate from High School and grow and develop into healthy, productive citizens.