Taking S.T.E.P.S. (Supporting the Transformation of Equity and Power in outdoor Spaces)


The goal of the Taking S.T.E.P.S initiative is to thoughtfully and intentionally create more opportunities for BIPOC and/or LGBTQ families to experience the north woods in a family camp setting. In doing so, we hope to change the experience of who is present and continue to grow a culture of universal belonging at camp.

Our Story

The summer 2020 staff team felt that as a new camp, it was imperative to have inclusivity be a part of our narrative and work from the beginning. The goal of this initiative was to see our words and intentions put to action as soon as possible, so we brainstormed, and with the help of many community members and outside resources, came up with the idea of S.T.E.P.S. To us, the purpose of S.T.E.P.S isn’t about performative activism or allyship, but was created with both the deep seeded love of Family Camp and the desire to make it a better place for all. We are focusing on making small, tangible, lasting change that can grow year to year.

Summer 2021

This inaugural summer of S.T.E.P.S program sessions partnered with 26 BIPOC families (118 people) over the session dates of August 1-7 and September 3-6. We received 41 Intent to Attend forms (all families came to camp on a first-come first-serve basis), and families of all different racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as familial structures attended camp. Stay tuned to hear from a few families about their experience with the S.T.E.P.S program!

Through the S.T.E.P.S Program we also formed a partnership with North Hennepin Community College, to add to the camp community. See Fall 2022 for more information about the North Hennepin Community College Partnership and more! 

Summer 2022

We're looking forward to growing this program to two, 3-day sessions and two, 6-day sessions for summer 2022 (6 S.T.E.P.S sessions total). In each of these sessions, 50% of the cabins and the sites for the week are reserved for S.T.E.P.S. Please see the session dates below, with more information following about each type of session:

2022 Session Dates:

6-day sessions run Sunday to Saturday:

  • Session 10: July 31 – August 6 (S.T.E.P.S. Session)
  • Session 14: August 21 – 27 (S.T.E.P.S. Session) 

3-day sessions:

  • Session 3: June 23 – 26 (Thursday – Sunday) S.T.E.P.S.  PRIDE/LGBTQ+ Session
  • Session 8: July 21 – 24 (Thursday – Sunday) S.T.E.P.S. Session

Further information

For ALL STEPS sessions, we hope to create a community and culture of intersectionality and interconnectedness at camp. In doing so, our S.T.E.P.S. sessions seek to intentionally create spaces for historically marginalized communities. Our first summer, the sessions were created specifically with BIPOC-identifying families in mind. This summer, after many feedback sessions and discussions, we have added a session to celebrate families who identify as LGBTQ+. To be as transparent as possible, we don’t want families to feel as if they must only check one box to be a part of a session. For example, if you identify as BIPOC and LGBTQ+, you belong and are welcome at camp in whatever way makes most sense for you and your family. We created these S.T.E.P.S. sessions to strengthen the sense of community for families that may want to see support in numbers (at least 50% of camp).

PRIDE/LGBTQ+ - In this S.T.E.P.S session, our goal is to have half of camp be LGBTQ+ identifying families. If you are a family who identifies as LGBTQ+ and are interested in being a part of our inaugural PRIDE session, please consider applying. We would love to grow and strengthen our PRIDE community as the years continue. 

All Other S.T.E.P.S. Sessions - In these sessions (3 of the 4 sessions), our goal is to have at least half of the families at camp identify as BIPOC. If you are a family who identifies as BIPOC and are interested in being a part of these sessions, please consider applying. We are excited to see these sessions double from last summer.

If you do not identify as a BIPOC or LGBTQ+ family and are interested in attending a STEPS session, please apply through the lottery, or register through open enrollment. 

While we are grateful and excited for your interest in these sessions, our STEPS program spaces and scholarships are intentionally set aside for families who historically have been under-represented in the Family Camp setting.

Fall 2022

North Hennepin Community College will be partnering with Camp Northern Lights for an Environmental Justice Immersion class, Sept 29-October 3, 2022. Northern Lights will serve as a host site, and offer some programming for the immersion portion of this course. See the flyer below for more information about the class!

View flyer

If you know of, or are a part of a school or organization that would be interested in partnering with Camp Northern Lights in the Fall/Winter/Spring months, please fill out the “Support Us” form below under “Ways to Help Us Grow”. We look forward to hearing from you!

Intent to Attend

We are actively working on finalizing the dates and times for our summer 2022 programming. If you are interested in being a part of a S.T.E.P.S newsletter for any and all information for summer 2022 (dates, registration information, and more), please fill out the form below! We look forward to connecting with you.

Intent Form

Ways to Help Us Grow

As a community, we recognize that we have a lot of work to do. We understand that as much as we want to create change, we also need to continue our education on these important issues. We would love your guidance in helping us grow. See below for ways to support us in this work:

1. In Partnership - Are you connected with a school, organization, or people you think may be interested in attending camp? Do you have trainings, education, or resources surrounding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Work? What else do you think we could do to enhance and improve this work? Let us know in the link below! All forms of giving and support are greatly appreciated.

Support Us

2. In contribution- In order to make this a continued and growing reality, we rely on the support of donations. If giving financially in any capacity is possible for you, it is another important way of making this initiative come to life. See the link below to donate. View breakdown of costs and allocation of funds.

Just Giving