Lyon alum serves as director to relaunch Texas camp for black girls

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One of the first summer camps for black girls in Texas is being revived this year, and a Lyon alumna will serve as camp director.

Angelica Holmes, a 2015 graduate of Lyon College, said Camp Founder Girls was founded in 1924 by a San Antonio woman to offer young women an outdoors experience while also gaining valuable life skills. After the founder’s death in the 1960s, the camp property was sold, and its legacy largely forgotten.

Alex Bailey, executive director of Black Outside — whose mission is “to provide transformative outdoor educational experiences to students of color” — came across the story of the camp while learning about San Antonio’s black history and brought Holmes onto the project.

Holmes said she will bring the leadership skills she learned at Lyon into her new role.

“I participated in a lot of things at Lyon that pushed me,” she said. “I was a member of Phi Mu and worked at Upward Bound Math and Science (UBMS) over the summer. That helped me see what summer programming looks like and gave me experience working with young people.”

The first year will be open to 30 girls and will run from June 17 through June 22. Campers will stay at Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Assembly near Kerrville, Tex.

“I have a really good staff,” Holmes said. “Most of them are also teachers and black women from the area. Obviously, we do have different backgrounds represented in our staff, but, for the majority, we were intentional about getting women who look like our girls to be the leaders.”

She said this will help the campers feel comfortable and confident while pushing themselves into new experiences. San Antonio is the seventh-most populous city in the United States, and Holmes said many of the campers haven’t had the chance to leave the city and explore the outdoors.

“When you think of hiking, kayaking, or any type of outdoor activity, it’s not something you associate with black women. We feel disconnected from them and don’t feel they are necessarily for us,” Holmes said. “This camp experience is going to give [the campers] the chance to try a bunch of new things.”

The campers will participate in outdoor activities, a ropes course, swimming, crafts, team-building exercises, and an overnight tent campout.

Holmes said families are encouraged to pay what they can afford, part of an effort to include students from low-income backgrounds. Families that pay the full cost know they’re supporting another girl’s ability to attend.

Holmes said Lyon taught her the importance of opportunities like Camp Founder Girls through her participation in the Black Students Association (BSA).

“At Lyon, I felt like I was in an environment where I was a minority,” she said. “Having organizations like the BSA and having that safe space helped me feel connected to the Lyon community as a whole.”

Holmes said the goal of organizations like BSA and Camp Founder Girls is inclusion.

“You’re going to have a space where you can feel comfortable and confident being yourself,” she said. “There is a sense of affirmation you get just by being in the presence of other people like you.”

The camp is open to all, she said, but is designed around the black experience.

“It helps prepare campers for the specific challenges of being a black girl. In the San Antonio area, you’re a minority within a minority-majority group. It’s very difficult.”

Holmes said she wants to provide the kind of camp experience she would have loved to have had growing up.

“When I was going to camp, no one ever explicitly told me ‘This isn’t for you,’ ” Holmes said, “but you kind of receive those messages implicitly when you don’t see any other campers like you or counselors who look like you.”

Holmes said she and the staff are looking forward to carrying on the camp’s original legacy.

“I think the fact that this camp is rooted in such deep history just adds another layer to it . . . It makes me really excited to be a part of this and really excited to instill those same values to the next generation.”

To donate to Camp Founder Girls, visit CampFounderGirls.org or the GoFundMe page “The Rebirth of Camp Founder Girls” by clicking here.

Article by Kelby Newcomb, Lyon College / Image submitted

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