Canoes at Camp Rise Up

Camp Rise Up 2023

Transforming young lives through adventure, education and empowerment

At Camp Rise Up, lessons in social-emotional health merged with scenic splendor as The Floating Hospital’s beloved summer initiative completed its sixth year. The week-long program, generously supported by The Floating Hospital’s dedicated donors, provides a beacon of hope for teens aged 12-15 who find themselves in challenging living situations; New York City is home to over 148,000 homeless students. Over 40,000 young people throughout the city sleep in shelters or hotels, and sadly even on the street, while almost 100,000 young people are “doubled up” in housing belonging to family or friends. Camp Rise Up is an annual summer escape for these teenagers – and a chance to envision a brighter and healthier tomorrow.

A week of discovery and personal growth

In 2023, 89 people under 18 attended Camp Rise Up, including nine teenagers who earned early work experience as counselors-in-training. The week was dynamic: campers were encouraged to expand their physical and emotional horizons. As 69% of homeless youth report having mental health challenges, Camp Rise Up’s classroom component and three unique curriculum tracks saw campers learning social-emotional strategies that, for this group, may very well be lifesaving.

Dr. Meghan Miller, Director of Health Education at The Floating Hospital, emphasized the growing number of returning campers as a positive sign of Camp Rise Up’s surging impact. Miller took pride in the ever-growing cohort of 3rd-year campers, called the RISE group, who, after three summers, have completed the whole camp curriculum. “This year’s [RISE] group had 17 campers, which is exciting because in the past, our RISE group has always been quite small,” shared Miller.

Montage of 4 images showing life at the camp

A curriculum for holistic empowerment

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, unhoused youth are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, have sex before age 13, and enter abusive relationships than their stably housed peers. Beyond providing the traditional summer camp experience to students who might not otherwise get the opportunity, Camp Rise Up serves as early intervention programming to encourage healthier behaviors. Camp Rise Up 2023 taught campers to fortify personal resilience, boost self-esteem, and develop essential life skills. Dr. Miller noted first-year students spent 18 hours in the classroom, participating in summer camp favorites: zip-lining, s’mores, swimming and even a water balloon fight.

Dr. Miller elucidated the importance of these workshops, underscoring their role in shaping resilient, informed individuals. She shared that Camp Rise Up’s curriculum delves into critical aspects of wellbeing and personal care, adolescent and sexual health, relationship building, social integration, emotional management, social justice and basic financial literacy.

Camp Rise Up extends its commitment to empowering not just campers but also its Counselors in Training (CITs). The program hones higher-functioning interpersonal skills in CITs, preparing them for future employment while cultivating empathy, active listening, and interpersonal conflict resolution skills.

“Two of them messaged me…and said how much fun they had, and how grateful they are for everything we’ve done for them, and that they just really love camp.”

Dr. Meghan Miller, Director of Health Education

Heartfelt testimonials and measuring impact

The impact of Camp Rise Up is felt by campers long after the glow of the week’s final campfire fades away. Dr. Miller shared poignant testimonials from campers: “Two of them messaged me on our Instagram afterward and said how much fun they had, and how grateful they are for everything we’ve done for them, and that they just really love camp.” She continued, “One commented on a group picture from the year before and said, ‘This place feels like home,’ and it was so sweet.”

Beyond the heartfelt testimonials, The Floating Hospital measures the impact of Camp Rise Up by evaluating the likelihood of change related to 6 risky behaviors and social-emotional skills. Campers who have completed all three years of Camp Rise Up have demonstrated a “significant increase in knowledge of how to say ‘no’ to sex if pressured” when comparing data from 2019 to 2022. Activities, lessons, counselors, and staff have all been rated “very good” or “excellent.”

Campfire at Camp Rise Up

A vision for the future

As we at The Floating Hospital reflect upon the success of Camp Rise Up, there is an eager anticipation to broaden its reach and magnify its impact in the years ahead. With continued support, The Floating Hospital hopes to extend the reach of Camp Rise Up to even more young New Yorkers, equipping them with the tools and knowledge they need to surmount obstacles and lead safe, healthy, and meaningful lives.

Camp Rise Up would not be possible without the community, compassion and generosity of volunteers and supporters. Every year, so many individuals help to make this event possible, and play their small part in impacting the future of 89 bright and courageous young people. To everyone who made this year’s event possible The Floating Hospital community extends a heartfelt thank you for believing in health education, early intervention, and the healing power of fresh air and the great outdoors!

Camp Rise Up is generously supported by an anonymous donor through Arabella Advisors and The Hollister Confidence Fund.

This post is featured in our monthly newsletter from September 2023.

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The Floating Hospital provides high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration or insurance status, or the ability to pay. By providing unrestricted medical care in tandem with health education and social support to vulnerable New York City families, The Floating Hospital aims to ensure those most in need have the ability to thrive, not just survive.


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