Recent Programs: 2016 Encampment

The 2016 Encampment at Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, demonstrated the power of the EFC’s unique educational methodology, which integrates a social justice curriculum with an in-depth experience of building community.

Young people from very different backgrounds from across the nation lived, learned, worked and played together. The theme of “Land and Identity” wove itself through the program’s three core workshops: “Through an Indigenous Lens,” “Stories that Connect Us” and “Greater Than Our Age.” Encampers explored their personal connections to where they were born and/or live now and the larger sphere of immigration laws, environmental degradation, gentrification, food justice and other human rights issues.

Encampers formed their own government; used Springfield, MA, as a case study; participated in a Black Lives Matter rally; explored Boston, including public TV station CCTV and METCO (an organization that works for educational equity); and sat in on immigration hearings and met with the judges. The culminating weekend brought together alums from several decades with parents, community supporters and the most recent Encampers for a fun exploration of (social justice) “Challenges and Strategies, Then and Now.”

“It’s important to look at the Encampment as what this country is really about — the whole promise of America — as the Great Experiment. Our country dared to bring different people from all over the world together under the promise that we could not just live together but grow together and become something that’s a little bit bigger than ourselves individually. The Encampment gives you an opportunity to do that. The Encampers come together with different perspectives and values, and grapple with putting together their own government for the time that they are going to live here, how they are going to govern themselves, what rules they are going to abide by — that’s a powerful lesson for life.” Steve Davis, EFC board member

The 2016 EncampersThe 2016 Encampers.

Community Government

Many Encampers named establishing the community government as their most memorable, albeit arduous, experience. Over the course of two weeks, the Encampers struggled to find a form of government where all voices could be heard, persisting through conflict and starting over many times until they found a form that all could agree on.

“The community we have built here is so strong and so realistic. We’ve had a bunch of issues— every community does—but the fact that we powered our way through is the important part. That’s the part I think we are all going to take back with us. This is the most confrontation I’ve ever had in my life and that’s a good thing, because I’ve learned to accept that people disagree and to present my ideas in a way that doesn’t disrespect or come as an attack on someone else’s.” – Talibah

“My favorite part is the way we formed a community and challenged one another. People come from different parts of the country and they have different type of minds and they believe in their ideas, so we challenge each other. I haven’t had people challenge my ideas before. I really like that because it makes me think further.” – Favio

“I was most affected by the community government process because there was conflict and I challenged myself, even though there was discomfort. The Encampment gave me the skills to understand people’s differences and to come together to [make] a cohesive decision.” – Daysha

Black Lives Matter Rally, Springfield, MA

Sejeia speaking at Black Lives Matter rally with Iyanu by her sideSejeia speaking at Black Lives Matter rally with Iyanu by her side.

Deanna and Jaelyn at the Black Lives Matter rallyDeanna and Jaelyn at the Black Lives Matter rally.

Encamper Sejeia talks about her decision to speak out at a Black Lives Matter rally after police officers shot two African-American men. The entire EFC group attended the rally and Sejeia, accompanied by another Encamper, Iyanu, spoke to the large crowd.

I was so unsatisfied with what was being said by the speakers. People were using words that weren’t really weighted and weren’t calling people to unify. I said, we’re going to go up there and we’re going to say this chant and it will get us to be on one accord:

It is our duty to fight for our freedom
It is our duty to win
We must love each other and protect each other
We have nothing to lose
But our chains.

It was nerve-racking and empowering to be up there. I felt not so much that a weight had been lifted off me but that the people next to me were helping to pick up the weight. You don’t feel like it’s just you trying to pick up the weight of racism or sexism. You see the people in front of you lifting each other up, physically, metaphorically and spiritually, and it’s a beautiful moment.

EFC group at Black Lives Matter rallyEFC group at Black Lives Matter rally.

Springfield, MA, as a Case Study

In EFC tradition, a community nearby the Encampment summer program provided a living educational laboratory. Staff and Encampers did research beforehand and then took a tour of the city starting from low-income areas, noting what the schools look like and comparing them to the wealthy areas.

They visited the Brightwood Community Health Clinic, where they met the director and other community leaders. The director, Dr. Jeff Scavron, is knowledgeable historically and spoke specifically about how to create a health center that serves the entire community.

Pastor Smith and Jim Goodman of the Third Baptist Church, along with Clint Flint, president of the Black Men of Greater Springfield, hosted a stirring discussion with representatives Ben Swan and Carlos Gonzalez, along with other community leaders. Encampers asked about the kinds of change they could make as politicians: “What do you believe in? How can we make our communities safe?” It was an unusual opportunity to have an intimate dialog with public officials.

Local representatives Ben Swan and Carlos Gonzalez and other community leaders meet with Encampers, Springfield, MALocal representatives Ben Swan and Carlos Gonzalez and other community leaders meet with Encampers, Springfield, MA.

Vanessa Pabon-Hernandez, leader of EFC’s documentation team, hosted a session at the local public TV station, WGBY, where she is the director of Community Engagement and Education. She created a multimedia presentation that included a discussion focused on the power of digital stories to transform people’s lives. Later that day, Anne Richmond, a co-director of Gardening the Community, a local CBO, along with other staff and youth participants, spoke about community gardens and food justice and then answered questions.

Local CBO Gardening the Community participants and co-director, Anne Richmond speaking at WGBYLocal CBO Gardening the Community participants and co-director, Anne Richmond speaking at WGBY.

“The field trips were learning experiences and made connections. One of my favorite field trips was the (Wilder Brook) farm because I really am passionate about food access and making a difference. I connected with Gardening the Community to be able to contact them for support to further the process I have started with food access in my community. I’m trying to increase production of healthy foods and to make them more affordable for everyone.” – Aaron

The entire day was hosted by the Springfield community, including lunch and dinner. It is a testament to that community’s generosity and the connections that Jane Sapp, Todd Jones and other staff have there that they provided a feeling of belonging that is unique to the EFC experience.

Exploring Boston Through a Social Justice Lens

Encampers at CCTVEncampers at CCTV.

Control room at CCTV with Encampers on screenControl room at CCTV with Encampers on screen.

The Encampment kicked off its exploration of Boston with a field trip to Cambridge Community TV (CCTV). EFC board member Dyanne London and Susan Fleishman, CCTV executive director, organized this powerful learning experience for the Encampers. The young people were interviewed on camera and got to work the camera and sound system. They also saw a movie about public TV.

“Today was a blast in Boston! We had great group discussions on social issues in the local area. We also learned how we can use media to our advantage, by using its power to make our voices heard!” — Deanna

“The experience made me feel more open to media, and how it can change perspective.” — Viseth

Encampers being interviewed by Reverend Irene Monroe on CCTVEncampers being interviewed by Reverend Irene Monroe on CCTV.

Encampers met with Jean McGuire (EFC alum 1948), executive director of Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) and the first female African-American to serve on the Boston School Committee, gave an engaging talk on the EFC’s importance in her life as an activist and described some of the struggles she’s been involved in concerning equal access to education and other initiatives.

Director of METCO speaks with the EncampersJean McGuire (EFC alum 1948), director of METCO, speaks with the Encampers.

On our second trip to Boston, Encampers sat in on three immigration hearings and then had a chance to talk with the judges. The 2016 Encampment had young people from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Jamaica and Haiti. The group prepared for the trip by hearing stories of Encampers who are immigrants or whose families are recent immigrants.

“My favorite field trip would be the second one to Boston, because I got to learn about immigration and what undocumented people have to be afraid of when living in this country.” – Wade

“The conversation about immigration has [affected] me the most because I am from Houston and I knew that there were problems, but I turned a blind eye. Now I have no choice but to go back home and pay attention to the way that immigrants are treated in the United States.” — Jaelyn

Encamper Leon arranged for the group to have a special learning experience with a group he belongs to — the Boston Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). The opportunity to be in an environment where gender was discussed openly and members of the LGBTQ community could feel safe to be themselves and express themselves was moving to a number of Encampers.

“My favorite memory is when we went to GLASS and I got to learn more about the gender spectrum and be better educated since I wasn’t open to these issues at home.” – Iyanu

2016 InterGen – Passionate, Life-changing, Fun!

A powerful Encampment 2016 concluded in Amherst, MA, with the annual InterGen weekend, where 2016 Encampers and staff invited alums, parents and community members to participate in a community-building weekend.

Immigration presentation, GuadalupeGuadalupe speaking during presentation on immigration at 2016 InterGen.

The weekend focused on “Challenges and Strategies, Then and Now,” and the intergenerational participants shared their stories of social justice issues and how they have addressed them over the years or are doing so now. The Encampers shared their experiences from their three weeks together in multimedia presentations on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, the entire group focused on ways to grow the EFC.

“The Encampment for Citizenship has my kudos for its curriculum, which connects the past to the present and has a vision for the future. The Encampers were so full of life experience, joy and sorrow. . . artistic learners with a passion that came through during their production, which included dance, music, poetry and spoken word and showed their growth after the three-week immersion in knowledge, inquiry and fun.” — boona cheema

“What a weekend! Honored to be part of InterGen 2016, where we met former Encampers from the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, etc. All shared how the Encampment changed their lives and all are doing exciting things to improve the world. We are excited that our son is now one of them.” — Kate Atkinson, parent of 2016 Encamper

2016 Intergen group2016 InterGen group.

Breakout group on lawBreakout group on criminal justice.

Wade, Angel and Ardiana, members of the group who created a theater presentation on immigration at 2016 IntergenWade, Angel and Ardiana, members of the group who created a theater presentation on immigration at 2016 InterGen.

2016 Intergen presentation2016 InterGen presentation.

Beth Mattison Hayley Mojica and boona cheemaEFC community organization representatives Beth Mattison (Hampshire College), Hayley Mojica (Wight Foundation) and long-time EFC supporter boona cheema at 2016 InterGen.

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The community we have built here is so strong ...

“... and so realistic. We’ve had a bunch of issues – every community does – but the fact that we powered our way through is the important part. That’s the part I think we are all going to take back with us. This is the most confrontation I’ve ever had in my life and that’s a good thing because I’ve learned to accept that people disagree and to present my ideas in a way that doesn’t disrespect or come as an attack on someone else’s.”

– Talibah, Brooklyn, NY


At the Encampment, we talk about the super-deep and troubling stuff that no one wants to talk about ...

“ ... but that needs to be talked about to create a better world. There were so many conversations that ignited my inner heart. I don’t live with these issues every day and I have asked myself, why is this [injustice] happening? When I hear from people who live with these issues, it hits me so much closer to home. It … makes me think, 'These are my friends – why do they feel like this in a society that is supposed to be equal for everyone?' I’m really glad I came to the Encampment because I got to meet so many fun, awesome people who are really passionate about something and really want to change our world.

– Wade, Amherst, MA

Armani, Richmond, CA

I am Native American and I've had a life-changing experience at the Encampment. ...

“Youth from all over the country, (along with) people from different countries, created a space in which we were comfortable to grow. Through this growing, we learned how to accept diversity, view a variety of perspectives, gain strategies to develop change and have our eyes opened to the world. I cannot express myself enough to show grateful I am to be a part of the Encampment community; it has given me my voice. I come from a place where I am silenced and my people are challenged with obstacles created through oppression. Now, I will tell you that I am no longer silent and I will speak up and out about social issues. This family we create here has given me the tools, guidance, connections and motivation to be a community leader and activist.

– Deanna, Pine Ridge Reservation, SD


The Encampment gives people who don't really have a voice in their community a voice, ...

“and makes them want to change the way they think and [change] their community … It’s a good experience and really fun.

– Aaron, Richmond, CA


The Encampment is really important. It is one of the biggest things in my life ...

“that has affected me in a positive way …. I learned so many things including leadership skills that I needed. My people see situations in my community and they don’t really stand up to improve them. When I first came here, I was shy and, little by little, I began to get comfortable with the people. The Encampment is like a family

– Jasmin, Lost Hills, CA

Encamper Leadership Teams

The Encamper Leadership Teams gave Encampers opportunities to take active leadership within the Encampment community. Each Encamper was part of a Leadership Team and each team took leadership of one of the weeks of the program. Leadership Teams had a range of responsibilities, including making decisions and being involved in planning the Morning Inspiration that kicked off each day's activities.

2016 Summer Program Staff

  • Evelyn Aquino
  • Michael Carter
  • Todd Jones
  • Anika Nailah
  • Mabel Picotte
  • Kookie Green, onsite Administrative Coordinator

2016 Summer Interns

  • Kaiyana Cervera
  • Angel Mendez
  • Nzingha Primus-Carroll
  • Aaron Richardson
  • Tasheena Stewart

The 2016 summer program welcomed five EFC interns — Encampers who had attended the Encampment twice and/or had a year of experience in college. These very enthusiastic young people provide a unique perspective having been through the experience as Encampers and then functioning as part of the staff team.

Angel: The community government was difficult in the beginning for Encampers as there were many disputes and separation. But, at the end of day, they got together and fixed the issues and they became a community.

Kaiyana: My favorite memory was the discussion after the shootings (of African-American men by police officers). A majority of Encampers spoke, and we were crying, very emotional. This is what I love: people from around the country shared an experience of national grievance and sorrow.

Aaron: Today we did a case study on Springfield Massachusetts. As we toured the different parts of town, the Encampers pointed out the stark differences between neighborhoods and schools and came  to the realization that communities of color and white communities are entirely different here. My favorite part of the day was having the open and informal discussion with representatives Ben Swan, Carlos Gonzalez, and local community leaders. It showed a lot about the Springfield community government and where it stands socially and politically. It was engaging and I think that every Encamper enjoyed this experience.

Year-round Staff

  • Margot Gibney, Executive Director
  • Jane Sapp, Program Director
  • Marion Silverbear, Administrator