Tawonga’s First Young Alumni Board Retreat

By Zach Stein

Earlier this summer, I joined eight other Tawongans to return to Camp for the first annual Young Alumni Board (YAB) retreat. While we had already been at work for six months together, this was our first real chance to start laying the foundation for the future of our board, to map out how we can best contribute to Tawonga’s Mission.


Mt. Hoffman
Zach (left) with friends during a summer on Tawonga’s staff

I am happy to report that it was a great success. I joined the first class of Tawonga’s Young Alumni Board because – despite never being a camper – I grew up at Tawonga. I first came to Camp fresh out of college, at the old age of 22 (compared to other staff).

As a counselor that first summer, I learned more about connection, leadership and who I am than I had in my four years of college combined.


As I returned to Tawonga each summer, my responsibilities grew, I felt more at home and I came back down the mountain that much closer to the strong, caring and confident person I knew I could be. It was some of the hardest work I have done, but also the most rewarding, and I feel eternally grateful for it.


Now, as a YAB member, I have the opportunity to give back to this institution that has given so much to me.


Our main goal as a board is to engage our age group (20s and 30s) and to fill the Tawonga-less void between being on staff and coming to Family Camp. It’s a unique opportunity, and we have a number of pretty great events lined up, which you will hear about in the coming months.


2016 YAB Retreat

Another goal for our board is to assist Tawonga to ensure that no child is denied a Camp experience due to financial constraints. Fellow YAB member Sophie Symonds explained why this is a priority:


Tawonga is too special and too life-changing not to be available to every camper who wants to attend. The thought of not being able to send my children to Camp Tawonga is simply not an option. I felt a renewed sense of purpose hearing the plans for Tawonga’s growth and the purpose of the Campership Fund. It’s our collective job as lovers of Tawonga to make sure it’s home for many years to come.


As a board, we will be raising $20,000 by the end of the year through events and our own fundraising efforts, all earmarked for the Campership Fund. So, after spending hours brainstorming, debating and finalizing our plans (with plenty of river breaks in between), we left the weekend with a strong foothold to achieve these goals over the next two years.


The car ride back down the mountain was full of fond memories, funny stories and inspiration for the future. As we drove away, YAB member Dylan Tarnoff described something we were all feeling:


I felt a new sense of responsibility for Camp as an organization and for the future generations of campers. Just as we need to plant seedlings to reforest the grounds, we have the opportunity to initiate programs to grow and evolve the organization into something even more incredible.


We can’t wait to get to work. Stay tuned for more updates.



Zach Stein worked on Tawonga’s staff from 2011-2014 as a counselor and eventually a unit head. Today, Zach resides in Berkeley where he is working on getting his start-up off the ground.


P.S. Read more about our YAB members and the work they are doing here.