Registration Open for North Star Quest Camp for Adolescent Girls
This is a press release from North Star Quest Camp:
It’s a warm breezy evening in the Mattole Valley. The river, just ankle deep now in late summer, burbles nearby. The Milky Way is rising over the redwoods and tan oaks on the hill. The air is perfumed with the scent of bay laurel trees and carries a high lilting melody. Crossing the dry sloping field, the indistinct song becomes clearer. The low light of a smoldering campfire illuminates a circle of faces. Sixty women and girls ranging in age from 10 to 55 are holding hands and singing:
“How can anyone ever tell you,
That you’re anything less than beautiful?
How can anyone ever tell you,
That you’re less than whole?
How can anyone fail to notice,
That your loving is a miracle?
How deeply you’re connected to my soul?”
This is North Star Quest Camp for Adolescent Girls. Every summer since 1997 a group of women and girls gather at the Mattole Camp & Retreat for five days of relaxing fun, enlightening workshops, and personal growth through creative expression. In 2006 with a waiting list long enough to fill up another camp, NSQ expanded to two camp sessions back to back. Now they have room for 72 girls across both camps, and since they don’t turn anyone away because they can’t pay, both camps are always packed.
“We get campers from all walks of life here in Humboldt,” says Camp Director Kati Texas, “They come from affluent families, middle class, foster care, the reservation, or the homeless
shelter.” All are accepted regardless of their ability to pay, and are then treated as equals. Upon arrival campers receive a camp shirt, and are assigned to their cabins. In case they are missing something important, there’s “Mom’s Closet,” a room with everything from river shoes, to toothpaste for those who forgot, or for those who simply don’t have what they need. The North Star philosophy is that every girl can benefit from an empowering experience with strong mentors, not just those who have been labeled “at risk” due to economic status, race or living situation.
Each full camp day is packed with activities, and has an overarching theme: Day 1 is “Who am I Inside?” All the workshops, games, and discussion groups that day focus on self exploration. That’s the day where you will find campers writing poetry, expressing their silly side in a clowning workshop, or learning about how to maintain a healthy body without the hype in “Nutrition for Real Life.”
The second full day of camp is themed “Who am I in my Community?” On this day, campers explore relationships and communication. They’ll learn mediation skills, assertiveness, and why self respect is key to having healthy friendships as well as romances as they grow older.
On the third day of camp, the view broadens with the theme, “Who am I in the World?” This is the day for talking about bigger picture topics like living with ecology in mind. Where does our food come from . . . our clothes? What is life like for girls this age in other parts of the world?
On “World” day they also talk about communicating with people outside one’s personal sphere in “Deconstructing / Reconstructing Media” a two hour workshop dedicated to taking a critical look at the things we see on TV, on the internet, and in social media. “There’s good messages out there, and bad,” Texas continues, “We’re not here to tell them the difference, but rather to encourage them to decide for themselves.” Or in other words, “We don’t tell them what to think. We tell them to think.”
Workshop leaders include a host of successful and well known women like Shoshanna from Redwood Raks teaching “Body Positive Belly Dance,” or graduates from Del Arte rocking their red noses and building self awareness through “Inner Clowning.” Other workshops encourage campers to break out of the “girl box” like “Inner Warrior” a padded sword fighting battle royal where being fast, strong and tough will get you a lot farther than liking the right band or wearing the right shade of lipstick. Among all these enlightening and thoughtful activities campers also enjoy traditional summer camp favorites like swimming in the river, arts and crafts, sing-along campfires, skits, and a talent show.
“My favorite part of camp is watching the girls come out of their shells,” Texas says. Some campers show up at NSQ so scared to be away from home that they have to be coaxed out of the car. Some of them are so angry at they don’t know what, that they can hardly see straight.
All of them, it turns out are looking for the same things: love and acceptance. You wouldn’t think it’s that simple, but after eighteen years and hundreds of success stories, the women of NSQ say it boils down to just that.
Love and acceptance may sound simple, but in a modern middle school they are in short supply. Girls and boys alike are in a constant state of trying to prove themselves. Are they attractive enough? Do they dress right? Are they feminine or masculine enough? Bullying is a way for adolescents who feel weak and confused to show their strength and control. It’s all reactionary though. For the most part, if they stop and think about it, no one wants to live that way.
At NSQ Camp, the staff of trained mentors create an environment where campers feel safe, treat each other well, and go out of their way to seek out strengths in others rather than weaknesses. This is possible because NSQ has a camper to staff ratio of 2 to 1. There’s simply no time when campers are away from the adults long enough to fall into their bad habits. Once they experience what it’s like to feel accepted for who they are by a group of peers, and enjoy that for several days, it becomes a new habit.
The “North Star” in North Star Quest is a metaphor for an internal guiding light. It’s a source of confidence and self worth rooted in the knowledge that growing up healthy and strong includes helping others do the same. On the last night of camp, at their last campfire together, the women and girls of North Star Quest take turns lighting candles from a single flame with this thought in mind:
“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
(Paraphrased from the Sutra of 42 Sections -The Buddha)
If you would like to help keep this unique experience available for any girl who wants to go, you can donate to North Star Quest through the Ink People, at inkpeople.org, or by credit card over the phone (707) 442-8413.
To find out more, or register a camper, go to northstarquest.org.