Guest Post: Campus Pride hosts 9th Annual Camp Pride in Charlotte, NC

Editor's note: This is a guest post written by media, communications and programs manager for Campus Pride, Rebby Kern. Kern also serves as the director of youth interests for SDA Kinship International. Follow @RebbyKern.

Campus Pride, the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups, hosted its ninth annual LGBTQ Summer Leadership Academy, Camp Pride, last week in Charlotte, N.C. Camp Pride took place in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), a historically black university (HBCU).

Camp Pride is the premier LGBTQ leadership and social justice training academy bringing LGBTQ and ally undergraduate students together with mentors, educators-in-residence and long-time activists. Camp Pride is the first national LGBTQ youth event to happen in Charlotte, and the first event of its kind to take place at an HBCU. 130 Camp Pride attendees represented religiously-affiliated colleges, HBCUs, 2-year and 4-year institutions, and tribal colleges from across the nation.

Advisor Bootcamp, which takes place in tandem with Camp Pride, is designed for professionals who advise and advocate for LGBTQ college students that wish to be equipped with the most effective information, tools and resources for understanding self, the student and the institution.

Camp Pride is comprised of keynote addresses, educational blocks, breakout sessions, and small groups called "dens." GLAAD’s Seth Adam, director of communications, spent the week with Camp Pride getting to know campers and instructed two breakout sessions on media advocacy.

Keynote speakers included Jeff Sheng, sports photographer and author of Fearless, Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington, founder of the Washington Consulting Group, Mara Keisling, executive director of National Center for Trans Equality and Diego Sanchez, PFLAG national director of policy.

In conjunction with Camp Pride, the City of Charlotte proclaimed Thursday, July 16, 2015 as the Day of Action for Trans Justice. Events were held at JCSU including an address from Charlotte’s first, openly-lesbian Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield. Panel discussions were held on intersectionality and grassroots activism with panelists including Mandy Carter, civil rights champion, Dr. Herukuti, scholar, clinical sociologist/sexologist and out bisexual activist.

Camp Pride will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary next summer with a special reunion for all campers from years past. The 10-year planning committee will be headed up by long-time Camp Pride directors Nikita Burks-Hale and Lisa Simmons-Barth. It will also be Lisa Simmons-Barth 10th anniversary as Camp Pride director.

Past campers have gone on to return as pride leaders, Camp Pride staff, full-time activists, executive directors of organizations, and major change agents on their campuses. Camp Pride provides the space for students to learn and grow with practical knowledge and self-understanding.

The first-ever Camp Pride was hosted at Towson University in 2007 with a total of 40 attendees. In 2010, Camp Pride moved to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. In 2011 Advisor Bootcamp was established and took place in tandem with Camp Pride. This summer Camp Pride had 130 attendees from across the nation and we expect even more the 10-year anniversary reunion.

“We are proud of every student who attended Camp Pride and believe that each one will go back to their campus, execute their action plan and continue on as today’s leaders into tomorrow,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. 

Pat Cordova-Goff, a trans womyn at Citrus College in Glendora, CA, learned that she must value her own identities as an authentic leader before other students can follow. “As I work to improve the climate of my campus, I will embrace who I am as a brown fat low-class non-binary trans queer womyn and demonstrate by example what it means to be comfortable in our own skin,” she said.

Leila Baldrige, an agender student at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA, felt they were affirmed at Camp and connected with other students with varying experiences. “At the end of it all, I returned home with more confidence in myself and what I stand for as well as the tools and personal support to help me make that stand,” they said.

Campus Pride is the leading national educational organization for LGBTQ and ally college students and campus groups building future leaders and safer, more LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The organization provides resources and services to thousands of college students and nearly 1400 campuses annually. Learn more online at CampusPride.org. Follow @CampusPride and #CampPride15 to learn more.