Children's Justice Camp

Registration is now closed for Children’s Justice Camp, July 15-21, 2024.
Our theme this year is “What in the World”!!!
We will learn about societies around the world and the global issues they are facing. Whether we are examining how forest bathing in Japan helps improve mental health or the pollution created by dumping old computers in Ghana, what’s happening in the world impacts all of us.
Campers will learn how we can stand together to fight against lies, embrace cultural appreciation, and create a better world. We’ll figure out how to manage big feelings, dance, and create art! 
We can’t wait for our campers to see “What in the World” is going on!
Have questions?** Please email us at HLDR.CJC@GMAIL.COM to reach Stewarding Director Cherizar , Youth Directors Marcus, Winter, and Yaretzi,  Shadow Director Melissa, and volunteer Harmony. 
**We are not currently looking to fill any positions and are not in need of volunteers, but sign up for Highlander’s newsletter and be among the first to know if/when we do!


  • Must send proof of vaccination before camp
  • Most recent booster is required
  • We *recommend* quarantining to the best of your ability the week before camp
  • Must send proof of negative COVID home test within 3 days of camp
  • Must take an “at home” COVID test and temperature every day of camp including arrival
  • Must wear a mask indoors, and its *recommended* outdoors when not standing 6ft apart
  • On the 5th day of camp IF THERE ARE NO POSITIVE TESTS masks become optional
  • We will notify all caretakers if anyone tests positive
  • Anyone who tests positive will be quarantined until they can be picked up by a caretaker 

Support Children's Justice Camp with a Donation!

Support Children’s Justice Camp with a donation!

Check out this video to learn more about camp and our fundraising campaign.  

Cherizar and Leilani recently joined “The Gift of Chaos” Highlander Donor Education series to share more information about the history and values of Children’s Justice Camp and how the work of the camp directors today is informed by camp’s rich past.

Watch the video to hear more from them, and check out more about the amazing camp history researched and written below by Cherizar. 

Meet the Directors!


Melissa Elle Weinstein-McLeod is a fourteen-year-old who straddles several identities. She has parents and siblings who are both indigenous Guatemalans, and she grew up in South Carolina and Tennessee, speaking Spanish and English. She also is a first generation US citizen. Her adopted family is white with European ancestors. She has siblings who are both Guatemalan and white. She identifies as cis-gendered and straight. 

Melissa is a Shadow Director at Highlander’s Children’s Justice Camp. She attended the camp two summers ago and really liked the workshops about grounding and connection to trees and plants. Melissa is looking forward to gaining skills in interacting with younger kids and taking more responsibility. 

Melissa enjoys math and science in middle school. She spends her time outside of school riding horses and running cross country and track. She is also a member of the youth group at her church, a progressive church that encourages self discovery and service to community. Melissa also likes hanging out with friends and siblings, going to the beach and swimming. She doesn’t think she could outrun a shark.


Marcus Williams is a 16 year old Virgo, from SE, Washington DC, and he is a strong and diligent Black person who has enormous knowledge about advocacy! 

Marcus has a lot of jobs, including advocacy work where he gains problem solving skills and knowledge to expand his wits. He knows he serves the next generation in preparing them for creating better communities through social justice work. He does this by sharing his beliefs about social justice, and giving them topics to focus on. He is a Director at Children’s Justice Camp, teaching children about the unjust and just of the world and allowing for them to experience workshops like no other. He also works at a non profit org called Black Swan Academy, where he serves his community in speaking to the government about their greedy ways, along with pushing for new laws and bills to be passed to better his and others communities. He also has an internship called Justice 40, and another internship called Urban Alliance where he learns about environmental justice, along with skills to better help his and other’s work ethics. You can see more of his work here: Amid D.C.’s school safety debate, 8 students reflect on their experiences – The Washington Post

Marcus is a person, a person who has a lot to give, and a lot to say, and has the courage to do the unknown. He loves watching anime, along with reading, and he has a knack for evolving and adapting. He knows knowledge IS key, and that is on PERIOD.


Winter Belle Smith is a 15 year old Black person from North Carolina. She is the oldest kid in her family and is a proud Sagittarius who loves to be social, even though it takes her some time to warm up to others.

She loves to volunteer and teach younger people about social justice. She is a Director at Children’s Justice Camp and she also does some volunteer work around her community. She is a part of a group called the Greensboro Teen Achievers and also does some volunteering at a home for seniors. Winter has a lot of experience with social justice thanks to her mother who has dragged Winter to every social justice event that she ever goes to ever since she was little. Winter has always been into social justice and would love to build and create a better world by inspiring the young to change the future.

Winter always has a back up plan. She loves to talk and go with the flow. Once you get her comfortable and talking she never wants to stop. Winter will literally laugh all day at nothing.She also loves music and art. It brings her to peace. She has two dogs named Ka$h and Sophie. Her favorite food is fries and when Winter isn’t working she is probably somewhere sleeping.



Yaretzi Cruz Golden is a 17 year old Cancer from North Carolina. She is a Mexican American, an early childhood educator, and a Spanish speaker. She believes in protecting reproductive rights, affordable housing, and re-indigenization. 

She does childcare for many organizations in her hometown and strives to learn what she can about children’s development so that she can better understand the children she works with. Yaretzi also works with an organization called PODER Emma in her hometown that works to fight against gentrification and protects affordable housing. She is a Planned Parenthood Teen Connections alumni and is very proud of it.  She works as a Director for Highlander’s Children’s Justice Camp and was a camper at the camp for 6+ years!

Yaretzi is a Cancer sun, Sagittarius moon, and an Aries rising. She has been doing traditional Mexican folkloric dance for ten years. She is obsessed with her dogs Roko and Chulino and has created entire personalities for both of them. Yaretzi will jump at any chance to boast about her family, especially her nephew who is the newest addition to her family. She has many special interests but is more interested in hearing people talk about their own interests.


Harmony is a volunteer at Highlander Children’s Justice Camp. She is also part of an organization called Girl Talk in Knoxville that supports young girls. Their mission is to transform the lives of girls 11-16 through character building programs that develop self awareness, self management and social competence!

She is a very creative and artistic person who loves to draw and sketch and loves all forms of art including music, literature, cinema, theater, painting, and sculpting. She is a daydreamer at times 😅. Her friends and family bring her joy. She loves traveling to tropical places and visiting amusement parks. Gift giving is her love language.  When she is not busy she loves  to take time for herself and relax her mind  with self care by watching movies, being on her phone, resting, and enjoying her day. 

Cherizar Lee-Crippen

Cherizar Lee-Crippen is a Black + Indigenous intersectional feminist, emergent strategist, and proud Hoodoo. She is based out of the south, spending her time developing youth leadership, facilitating popular education spaces, coaching organizers, and creating opportunities for healing justice folk to link up and practice spiritual resistance. 

She is the Founder of the The Ancestral Spirit Kollective (The ASK), which connects Black youth with Black spiritually aligned community organizers who are interested in reclaiming ancestral practices for the health of our people. She also leads a Healing Justice Cadre of folks working towards creating a Spiritual Landscape Map of the south to help marginalized people connect with local resources, spaces, and practitioners that meet their mental/emotional/spiritual needs. Cherizar is currently earning her Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity Leading Centering Level One Certification and cannot wait to lead little ones in a daily somatic centering wind down practice!!

When she’s not raising rebels she enjoys reading speculative fiction, watching anime, finding good sitting trees, and cuddling with her perfect fur baby, Oxytocin Essence Marie. She makes the mac and chz at the function, IYKYK.

History of Children's Justice Camp at Highlander by Cherizar

Highlander and Koinonia Farms, near Americus, Georgia, partnered to run interracial kids camps from 1956 to 1958. The camp drew dozens of children from diverse backgrounds to spend two months learning, among other things, to ignore the walls separating races. Koinonia’s attempt to desegregate Georgia State College in 1956 drew the attention of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the Georgia Commission on Education, an arm of the Georgia state legislature established to preserve segregation. The GBI surveilled these camps leading them to send photographer Ed Friend to secretly document the 25th Anniversary weekend where he took photographs and gathered information that the Commission hoped would discredit Koinonia and bring down Highlander, undercutting its future impact.

Sumter County filed an injunction against Koinonia’s camp citing health code violations that would place attendees in danger. When the designated official investigated the claim near the end of the month he could find no such violations, and even stated (later) that Koinonia “was as clean as place as you ever saw in your life.” 

Also, four locals filed a companion suit alleging that “the operation of the camp would be detrimental to the morals of the children” in attendance. The chief protest for this second legal action was the potentially negative impact of witnessing animals being born. This legal battle, as with the first, was eventually dissolved, but not before it served its purpose of preventing Camp Koinonia from being held at the farm. So it was moved to Highlander.

Twenty-seven years later, the successor to Camp Koinonia was announced. Highlander Children’s Justice Camp was advertised as an, “interracial children’s camp…where 33 campers live and work together as a community. Activities included archery, horseback riding, fishing, dancing, singing, arts and crafts, and storytelling. Camp directors were Dr. and Mrs. Van Kennedy” who served the camp for nearly 30 years.

Over time the camp evolved to include writing skits about the inequalities of the U.S. healthcare system,  developing the leadership skills and analysis of youth, arts expression, and empowerment  to create the world they will inherit. In person there’s also a  waterslide and some think the location of a time capsule is in the same spot where Children’s Justice Camp campers slide each summer!  Alumni of this version of camp include many freedom fighters such as our dearly beloved Elandria, who came to Highlander as a Children’s Justice Camp as a youth participant and went on to do the important work of the Economics and Governing program. We’ve seen youth start in camp, return for Seeds of Fire, and then come full circle to be a guest adult facilitator at camp. It all starts with camp!


The camp model has changed from being adult-led to being youth-led. In 2019 I became the first Black Directing Steward for 5 BIPOC Youth Directors, all former campers who know our camp inside and out. Our Youth Directors are responsible for camp planning and execution, hiring Junior Educators to help with camp as well as adults as guest facilitators. Beyond the skill-building, we provided one another emotional support while the world burns and took advantage of the opportunity to co-mentor one another as they move towards adulthood, and I move towards yelder (young elder) status.

We spent 2020 learning how to navigate uncertainty, adapt and make space to grieve, talk about mental health, learn about societal ills, and have difficult accountability conversations. In service of honoring our commitment to recognizing and adapting to our capacity, we canceled camp, a hard decision since it was our inaugural year as a new formation with a new structure. 

In Summer 2021, Highlander history was made again with the first ever virtual Children’s Justice Camp! Our Directors learned how to create engaging and interactive workshops, how to handle any potential disruptions, and created and facilitated an  orientation for our Junior Educators. Junior educators normally aid the Director in caring for our campers. We used this opportunity to teach them a different way to offer care, tech support and zoom security. 

When we wanted to be in each other’s physical presence after such a long time apart, Highlander made it possible for us to gather together offsite for our onloading time before camp. The opportunity to reconnect in person really kept us going emotionally and gave us a much needed break from screens.  

As we continue to move through this historic shift, our Youth Directors are looking towards the future. Since they will all age out of the program by the end of the 2022-23 season, we’ve designed an awesome succession plan. Our Youth Directors are selecting 4 Shadow Directors from our pool of Junior Educators and are training them to take on the role once they step away.  Our leadership development plan includes Pop Ed and Emergent Strategy facilitation training, Comms Training, political education, budget development, recruitment and interviewing skills, timeline development and time management, developing accountability processes, and virtual workshop development training. My plan as Stewarding Director is to turn this camp over to the capable hands  of a former Youth Director who has aged out by the year 2025.

Our camp theme this year is  “Replanting Our Roots: Grounding Yourself”. In this new reality we want to explore what it looks like to connect with every part of our ecosystem. This includes an exploration of identity and our place on this planet. Highlights will include lessons on communist farming, Black cowboys, 99 years of youth connection to Highlander, and gender expansiveness. We are again planning an in person and virtual camp given the unpredictable nature of COVID. This experience has also led us to thinking about disability justice and what it means to offer a hybrid camp where campers who cannot attend in person still get an amazing camp experience. 

The  experiences we create and offer to young people are an invaluable asset to change making.  By age 12 we’ve formed most of our values and Highlander’s Children’s Justice Camp has the unique opportunity to influence the sense of social responsibility in young people, combatting the message of individualism and moving generations towards mutual support, respect, and understanding.

 I cannot overstate how powerful that is. It takes approximately 4 generations to change an attitude about an issue. White supremacy works overtime getting into our youths heads in the media, school, literature, and even toys. We get to be on the ground floor of interrupting that and stewarding the youth who will be the change they want to see in the world. It is our deepest honor to continue to build off of the incredible legacy of this camp and we deeply appreciate your support in making an impact that will last a lifetime. 

– Cherizar