Trent University and the Peterborough community are familiar with the meaningful impact of Camp fYrefly Ontario. As the camp prepares to host its eighth year of campers at the University’s Symons Campus, the stories and influence of this transformative experience continue to resonate among faculty, staff, students, and community leaders.
“People familiar with Camp fYrefly love it and are fiercely dedicated to supporting it in whatever capacity they can,” says 2023 camp director Kemi Akapo ’05 (Champlain College). “Trent is where I learned a lot about myself and was a safe space for me to explore my identity.”
Kemi shares that she first heard about the camp through the former director who invited her to be a volunteer. Now in a leadership role, Kemi notes that it is the camp's dedication to fostering resilience, self-assurance, and assistance for 2SLGBTQ+ youth that positions it as a guiding light, illuminating the path for campers towards personal growth and empowerment.
Launched in the summer of 2016 under the visionary leadership of Spencer J. Harrison ’97 (Julian Blackburn College), fYrefly Ontario emerged as a profoundly impactful initiative. Having now seen hundreds of campers successfully transition from the arts-based camp to pursue their passions in higher education, and even returning as adult volunteers, the experiences shared amongst campers, youth and adult leaders have rippled throughout the University and larger community.
Dr. Rachael Nicholls ’02 (Champlain College), Trent University’s First Peoples House of Learning (FPHL) access and mentorship coordinator and the camp’s faculty advisor, highlights the value of Camp fYrefly on the personal and academic journeys of many students, particularly those hailing from rural communities in Ontario.
“Camp fYrefly is a lifeline for gender and sexual minority youth in the rural regions of Ontario, offering essential summer programming that fills a significant void,” shares Professor Nicholls. “As a coordinator, co-director, and now faculty advisor, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of this incredible retreat experience for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.”
Unlocking meaningful experiences
Over three to four days on-campus, with Trent residences as a home base, campers are immersed in various sessions led by youth leaders, artists in residence, spiritual and health leaders, and Indigenous knowledge holders. These sessions allow space for youth to listen to their peers’ lived experiences and to reflect and express themselves in ways most comfortable to them, many of which are through arts-based activities.
“Many campers don’t get to learn about the community they are a part of unless camps like fYrefly are offered, says Kemi. “For youth to have a space to meet their peers and elder queers is transformative. The excitement around camp is palpable, and so many people have shared how vital and impactful the camp has been.”
Taking leadership into the community
Camp fYrefly is designed to help youth develop the leadership skills and personal resilience necessary for them to become agents for positive change in their schools, families, and communities. These skills and new perspectives are often integrated into the pedagogy and practice of teacher candidates who participate in the camp.
Offered as an Alternative Settings Placement within the Bachelor of Education program, Camp FYrefly encourages– teacher candidates to take their new knowledge into areas outside of the typical classroom. The fYrefly placement provides teacher candidates with the opportunity to not only explore their own identities but learn about the challenges and opportunities that the youth of today experience.
Camp fYrefly Ontario runs this August 11-13 at Trent University’s campus in Peterborough, Ontario. To learn more or find registration details for the camp, visit trentu.ca/campfyrefly.