Shrine Mont Summer Camp – Where Everyone is Welcome
By, Natania Jones
Everyone searches for a place where they can feel accepted. As a current sophomore in high school, I was extremely lucky to find such a place so early in my life and now I want to share it with others.
When I was eight years old, I started going to Shrine Mont Camps (SMC). At that time, I was being bullied in school and I was afraid to let my true colors shine. I went to SMC for the first time and instantly knew this was the place for me. I walked to my cabin and within ten minutes I had made five new friends. My cabin counselor greeted me with open arms and I knew at that moment my life would be changed forever. I quickly learned that I would be accepted for who I am and I would not be judged. I was surrounded by people who loved and supported me.
I am not personally a part of the LGBTQ community, but many other campers are. I know that many people in the LGBTQ community feel accepted at SMC. When we introduce ourselves at the beginning of camp, not only do we tell each other our names and a random fact about ourselves, but we also share our preferred pronouns. People feel safe to be themselves at camp.
I fell in love with SMC the first time I went and I was always looking for excuses to go back. In seventh grade, I began attending a SMC program for middle and high school students called Parish Youth Ministries (PYM). When I walked in for the first time I was extremely nervous, but I was instantly greeted by people willing to help me have a great time. We played a ton of fun games and we sang a lot of songs. By the end of the weekened, we had all become really close friends. I returned the next year for another amazing weekend.
At SMC, we try our hardest to make sure that everyone attending has an amazing time. We lead small groups with the intent to start safe and open conversations about a wide variety of things. We often end up in deep conversations where everyone feels safe to share their personal stories. We also have workshops during the weekend for high school students where we talk about things like faith in politics, self-love and meditation.
I truly feel that SMC is a place where everyone can be accepted. I have never met a person who attended and had a bad time. I think SMC and the PYM program are truly amazing opportunities for youth to feel safe and be accepted. I encourage you to check it out. There is something for everyone at SMC!
Shrine Mont Camps are located in the Shenandoah Valley between Harrisonburg and Winchester. The mission of Shrine Mont Camps is to promote the emotional and spiritual development of children, youth and young adults in a safe and positive environment for all. We encourage the growth of relationships with self, others, and God. Operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Shrine Mont Camps strive to create a diverse and safe community that welcomes campers and staff from all backgrounds. We do not discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, creed, color, national or ethnic origin, physical or mental ability, or sexual orientation. For more information, go to shrinemontcamps.net.