The Jeffrey A. Conrad Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Penn State is hosting its second summer program, Camp Crystal Queer, which offers face-to-face and virtual events for LGBTQ students.
The program is designed to provide fun and exciting activities for the students during the months of June, July and August, including movie nights, hiking trips, stargazing and a weekly virtual book club.
Eric Duran, the CSGD’s program coordinator, said the center didn’t hold as many events in the summer months leading up to 2020 because fewer students were living in the state college area at that time.
When CSGD converted its spring semester program to a virtual format last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the idea of ââcreating a virtual summer program for students had come true, Duran said.
It started with bi-weekly community check-ins through Zoom and then evolved into virtual campfire chats where attendees could share stories, northeastern folklore, and ghost stories from Penn State. Virtual tours were also held from there, showing downtown State College, the Arboretum at Penn State, and Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center.
“In the beginning it was like, ‘What are we doing in a virtual world?'” Duran said. “The goal was to find out how students can stay connected and have fun at home.”
This year, Camp Crystal Queer looks a little different. With the easing of coronavirus restrictions on campus and in Pennsylvania, CSGD was able to create a hybrid program of virtual events for students who are out of the area in the summer and in-person events for those who are.
Many of the same activities from last year could take place again – this time in person. Recently, CSGD took participants to a group day hiking to Shaver’s Creek.
The next personal events include lawn games on June 22nd at noon and stargazing on June 28th at 8:30 pm. Both take place on the lawn of the HUB-Robeson Center.
Camp Crystal Queer also offers several virtual options and CSGD resources for students to familiarize themselves with the Penn State LGBTQ community. The Book Club runs every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., and there is a virtual bonfire chat all about Pride on June 24th from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Students can still register for Camp Crystal Queer events using the link on the CSGD Instagram page.
Another feature of the program are embroidered patches. Similar to those Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA receive for their merits and achievements, Camp Crystal Queer campers can receive various badges for their participation in events and activities.
CSGD was offered as a virtual option last year and will now distribute physical patches to campers when programming ends in mid-August, according to Duran.
As last year’s program was entirely virtual, CSGD plans to continue providing students with access to most of the inaugural yearâs activities through a Camp Crystal queer blog.
Duran said CSGD student staff played a vital role in developing and planning this year’s camp.
Sarabeth Bowmaster, a CSGD Peer Education intern, has been tasked with maintaining various programming activities for Camp Crystal Queer, such as the pen pal program and the virtual book club.
Bowmaster (Junior Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy) said engagement for in-person events has been lower – but virtual options are booming.
The opportunity to connect with fellow LGBTQ students was a highlight of Camp Crystal Queer, Bowmaster said, and she looks forward to attending upcoming events.
“At least for me, it’s a great way to keep in touch with the community and not feel so aloof in the summer,” said Bowmaster. “Maintaining this commitment in the summer and incorporating it into the school year and involving people before they are burdened by class and work is super important.”
Bowmaster said she believes hybrid events that students can still attend from home are another important aspect of Camp Crystal Queer. She said that since some students find themselves in awkward spaces on their return home, summer programs for LGBTQ students can be a great way to keep in touch with the community.
When the pandemic brought face-to-face events and classes to a standstill, Muggs Leone didn’t find the time to deal with CSGD in the fall and spring semesters. Now Leone (Sophmore pyschology) works as a student assistant and helps maintain various social media and programs for Camp Crystal Queer.
“As someone whose entire college experience has been online so far and I meet people in person in the summer when I don’t have to attend to classes … I think it’s easier to get engaged over the summer,” Leone said. “In my opinion [Camp Crystal Queer] is a great option for people with a busy schedule, or [who] might not [be] Located in the immediate vicinity to get engaged and to get in touch. “
As the pre-2020 summer program has been somewhat overlooked due to the emphasis on planning the fall semester, Duran said this is new territory for CSGD to explore. He hopes Camp Crystal Queer continues to grow and have more events for students to attend.
“We haven’t done that many in previous years because we really focused on the fall,” said Duran. “Since June is a national Pride month and there are even students in July and August, it is important for us to keep running summer programs.”