Nicole Infinity is the Camp Coordinator for Camp Quest North. Here we talk about he life, views, and work.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What was early life like for you? Did religion play a role in it?
Nicole Infinity: Tumultuous. I was baptized at the age of 7 into the Lutheran Church. My half-sister, then an infant, older brother, and I were baptized at the same time.
I took classes and had earned the right to be confirmed in the church, but I just didn’t believe. It was a progressive church, I had several friends there, and I even had some god feelings, but it just wasn’t right for me. It is where I found my love of camp though. I attended Christikon.
A week-long summer camp in Montana. Twenty other kids and I drove from Minnesota on a school bus each summer to attend this camp set in the mountains where we reflected, sang, hiked, danced, and camped. I fell in love.
At 16, I stopped going because I just couldn’t pretend anymore. I was at a point where I was questioning everything around me and the church and camp were not places I could do that.
Jacobsen: If you reflect on pivotal people within the community relevant to personal philosophical development, who were they for you?
Infinity: Honestly, I have little interest in atheist prophets, but I recognize that some are very important as people transition from deity belief to a secular life. However, discussions with close friends and the Camp Quest community have helped guide my personal philosophies.
Jacobsen: What about literature and film, and other artistic and humanities productions, of influence on personal philosophical worldview?
Infinity: All of the above, of course. When I was a very angry teenager it was Requiem for a Dream and Fight Club. Now, I am open to a more subtle approach. I feel there is a power in foreign film to make the world smaller and personalities, feelings, and beliefs more familiar.
The films of Hirokazu Kore-eda, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Pedro Almodovar are ones that come to mind first. Where do we go now? or Et maintenant on va où?, Eat Drink Man Woman, Antonia‘s Line, Lucky, Jihad for Love, The Way He Looks, and Monsoon Wedding are also films I find to have many truths.
The writing of Sandra Cisneros, Bell Hooks, Roald Dahl, Amy Tan, Allison Beckdel, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Craig Thompson also ring true to me as well.
Books made for young people as well like The Big Orange Splot, Charlotte’s Web, and Haroon and the Sea of Stories. Artwork and music have always been an influence, but there is too much to even mention.
Jacobsen: How did you come into contact with the Camp Quest programs and initiatives? What were your initial impressions?
Infinity: As an educator, I attended a conference in where Camp Quest was tabling among hundreds of other youth development and educational organizations in a huge open room.
I happened to walk past the table. That was the first time I had heard of a secular summer camp. Having loved attending summer camp as a child and young woman, I applied immediately to be a camp counselor that summer.
After volunteering at the camp that summer, I was hooked. I was surrounded by other people who I felt I could be open with and supported by. The campers were like any other group of kids; excited, curious, and energetic.
Expect, all of these young people were being raised in secular or half-secular households. I joined the board that fall. It was 2009 and I have been with the camp since.
Jacobsen: As you work for Camp Quest North, what are the associated tasks and responsibilities coming with the position?
Infinity: Overnight camp is a unique experience for campers and counselors. When I began, my role was a volunteer counselor.
I joined the board of directors, became head counselor and continued with camp each summer. Eventually, I became a camp director. For the past few years, I have been the camp coordinator.
We have grown from a camp of 13 campers in 2004 to a camp of 140 campers in 2018. We began with one week of camp and now run four weeks including a week long day camp for younger kiddos.
Currently, I facilitate planning the schedule and activities, purchase and maintain supplies, organize and lead retreats, coordinate with the board of directors, communicate with parents and counselors, and work to continue to grow camp.
All of this while recognizing that we are working with young people ages 4 to 17 and our main goals are to help people become compassionate, questioning, and active. We also have many safety considerations. There are many different pieces of running a successful summer camp.
Although we are not adding a new week to camp this summer, we are making one of our week’s gender inclusive. During this week, campers will be placed into cabins by age regardless of gender identity.
As a secular organization, I feel we have the power to be radically inclusive and progress in a way that is based on evidence. We try to incorporate that into all we do.
Jacobsen: What have been some of the more touching experiences while in the community? What have been the difficulties working with youth?
Infinity: Through camp, I have found a community of supportive and thoughtful people who I love and trust. Two of my kids’ guide parents are people I met at Camp Quest.
It is a multi-generational community of people working together to have fun and think deeply about how we can shape the world into a better place for everyone.
Although I have always loved working with young people, I realize there are some difficulties. Our toughest challenge is when parents sign kids up for camp, but the kids don’t really want to be there.
The week-long video game/smart phone detox is a bit much for some kiddos. However, I truly believe that overnight camp, not just Camp Quest, has a unique power to build character, create independence, and open minds.
Jacobsen: How do you coordinate programs and initiatives with other Camp Quest directors?
Infinity: We begin planning the next summer of camp in October at our yearly Planning Retreat with any counselor and board member who is interested.
There, we choose a theme and change the schedule as needed. Camp Quest Inc. also holds a yearly Leadership Summit where camps get together to share ideas. There are also some online sharing sources which are currently being developed more fully.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Nicole.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.