2020 sejong camp
2020 Sejong Virtual Camp was success!!
With the pandemic of COVID-19 impacting the entire nation, we as an organization still felt strongly about providing an intentional learning and socializing opportunity for our community. Thus, we opted to transform our lived experience of a one week sleepaway camp into a curriculum planned for a week of a virtual experience.
We registered 28 campers and five volunteer staff members who participated in the Sejong Virtual experience, which included teachers of multiple generations and backgrounds to share their expertise and experience. Our academic curriculum included Korean Language Arts, Culinary Arts, Taekwondo, Arts & Crafts, Movement and Kpop dance instruction.
In addition, what makes Sejong Camp unique is the integration of our ESTEEM class in which we discuss current events that impact the Korean American and Korean adoptee experience and identity. We had guest speakers from Korea zoom in for sessions to share the personal impact of the COVID-19 in real time, as well as, share history lessons on moments we would never hear about in the US. In addition, we had another guest speaker share their lived experience as an adoptee, which allowed for a more intimate conversation on what it means to be Asian American identified in the time of COVID-19 with the racial and societal reckoning occurring in our country.
In addition, our curriculum includes a programmatic element where we are able to have structured socializing and activity moments for the group. This was intentional as to give time for our campers to connect on a level that didn’t feel structured, but gave moments for them to quip and converse. We had them engage with online gaming software, virtual ice breakers, and moments of sharing special/meaningful experiences. The highlight of our programming model included a live performance to celebrate the week of camp - including acapella, piano, and hip hop.
Sejong Virtual Camphas allowed for a wider range of participation with campers zooming in from New Mexico, Montana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York. Our campers also represent the full diaspora of the Korean American community. We serve American born Korean children, children of mixed race heritage, children of adoptees and adopted children born in Korea. Our staff mirrors our campers too, allowing for mentorship and camaraderie.
We are extremely pleased with our outcomes for our camp this year - planned and unplanned. With so much uncertainty and unpredictability, it felt wonderful to be able to deliver a Sejong Camp experience to our campers (and even staff) who come year after year seeking a safe and fun community just for them.
All of the teachers who agreed to participate this year welcomed the challenge of sharing their expertise even through this unfamiliar mode. Showing up in real time, answering questions, gazing into each others’ faces and spaces to coalesce around the campers of diverse ages and stages in life, was a truly wonderful experience. Every teacher wrote words of affirmation and delight in their experience and look forward to another opportunity to be with our campers.
Programmatically, everything went according to plan. Our yearly planning for this one event pays off when every link, video, class and session went exactly as we had hoped. An added bonus of having a virtual experience was that we were still able to connect with the campers individually, through the chat option on the screen, and extended social/activity hours with our staff. It allowed for greaterparticipation for kids who were not feeling comfortable talking into the screen, but still wanted their thoughts shared or questions answered.
While the work was tremendous, the ability to provide this moment was impactful. It exceeded expectations and captured ways to continue to grow our support of the Korean-American community. We believe that while seemingly a challenge, pushed our creative possibilities to new opportunities.
Feedback by parents:
My 11 year old daughter attended Sejong camp last summer (2019) for the first time and loved it! She literally slept with her camp book under her pillow for months following camp. This summer, she and my 9 year old daughter attended Sejong virtual. Sejong is a very special and unique program that I wish was around when I was a kid. I happen to be adopted and my husband is 1.5 generation Korean American, and we live in an area without a large Korean American community. Sejong provides a community that feels like home. They have the opportunity to learn about their Koreanness and make friends with kids who are like them, their mom, and their dad. Sejong's strength is in the diversity of the campers and staff, along with the diversity and richness of programming. The leadership has a deep understanding of kids, their needs, interests, and is intentional in creating engaging activities led by professionals who share their passion. The program had the perfect blend of activities, and great teachers/facilitators who are a representative of the camper population. My girls really enjoyed the activities and teachers who also serve as positive Korean American role models for them. We can't wait for next summer already!
2020 is my daughter’s 3rd and my son’s 4th year as a camper at Sejong Summer Camp. This is the only camp or activity that anchors every summer for our family.
Unless you belong to a Korean American Christian church, the options for Korean American kids to learn about the Korean culture, including food, language, art, history and pop culture are very limited outside of what each family is able to provide. It’s even harder for kids to explore their Korean American identity, including how that identity impacts them in a multi-cultural, at times racist American society, as families often don’t understand this themselves.
While what Sejong can actually teach in one week’s period is limited, it is meaningful and impactful in that they successfully plant a seed in my kids’ hearts and minds every summer the importance of knowing who they are and learning what they are proud of. The camp always leaves them identifying what they want to know more about their culture and identity. It is through their week away with Sejong that my daughter’s interest in learning the Korean language was born, and my son’s eagerness to try cooking Korean food himself became reality. It is after a week at Sejong that my son patiently taught back to our family the concepts of microagression and how it is not just overt racism but the everyday ignorance and subtle putdown of minorities that can strip the people of color of their dignity and confidence, and make them feel like outsiders. One week away with Sejong gives them a safe space to learn and discuss such concepts in a supervised setting with social workers. While my kids were devastated to learn that Sejong in-person camp was going to be canceled this summer due to COVID-19, we all appreciated the organizers pivoting quickly to deliver a Zoom camp that was still anchored by the same values as all other years. I cannot imagine a camp more meaningful and impactful than Sejong has been to my children over the last four years.
-Caroline K. O.