Nat's Transition Announcement

The Sound of a New Generation: RCRC Transitions

We are experiencing so much change in our world right now, and oftentimes big shifts are necessary for essential growth, rebirth, and innovation. A foundational strength of RCRC is our responsive, adaptive nature, and we certainly are no strangers to change; we’ve changed our name, rewritten our language, built and rebuilt policies, shifted and added locations, and welcomed new voices and leaders, just to name a few! As the founding Executive Director of RCRC, along with the dream to build this organization also came the dream to one day be equipped to let it fly on its own. I am deeply proud and honored to announce that this summer I will be transitioning out of my role as Executive Director of Rain City Rock Camp, and moving into my role as super fan.

Gratitude

I am forever grateful that I was supported in my efforts to start RCRC in a time when I was a young person myself. My peer co-founders and founding board members believed in me and cheered me on in ways that I learned to emulate, so that I could cheer on others who were struggling to feel that they were enough. I am humbled by how much I have been supported along the way to try, fail, try again, and at many times succeed as this organization’s leader. RCRC has helped me to find my community, my voice, my purpose, and my creative outlet. Being a part of RCRC has given me a space where I can laugh, cry, dance, scream, and make a difference all in the same place. I am endlessly grateful to our campers of all ages for cheering alongside me and challenging me to make RCRC a more equitable and justice-focused organization.

To my family, friends, and bandmates, thank you for allowing me the space to dive deeply into my passion for Rock Camp for the past 13 years, and for actively supporting RCRC’s work. I have missed weddings, funerals, birthdays and holidays, but you’ve reminded me that my work matters, and you turned around and signed up to volunteer so that you could spend time with me. I’ll never forget it.

Natalie Walker dancing with exuberance during the camp song at Summer Camp 2010.

In 2008, inspired by Portland’s Rock n’ Roll Camp, RCRC founders and founding board embarked on our journey to launch our own Seattle program and nonprofit organization. What followed was a tidal wave of growth, creativity, community engagement, volunteer hours, minor chords, and joy of social revolution. RCRC offered our first ever Summer Camp session at The Fremont Abbey Arts Center for 40 campers, ages 9 to 16. When parents arrived at the camp venue on Monday morning of our first camp, we froze momentarily in disbelief that people were actually trusting us with their kids! But we proved to ourselves that we could do it- our camp enrollment was at capacity, campers and volunteers were drawn into a community, and the campers’ final showcase performance at The Vera Project sold out with more than 400 family, parents and community members in attendance. The rock camp rocket was officially on full blast.

Now, in 2021, RCRC has served over 3,000 youth and adults and formed nearly 600 new bands. Our programming includes South Sound Rocks!, two weeks of Seattle Summer Camp, multiple sessions of Adult Rock Camp, a year-round paid leadership program, Amplified Teen Voices, Advanced Music Program, Rain City Rock School, virtual adaptations of all programs, and even more in the works. We have an amazing 9-person staff, dedicated 9-person board of directors, hundreds of teaching artists and volunteers, and serve more than 350 womxn, girls (cis and trans) and gender expansive folx every year.

South Sound Rocks stage warm-ups with the staff crew.

Highlights

Here are some more highlights of my 13 years with RCRC:

Team building, hiring staff, and growing shared leadership structures: Building a team is like band formation. Every part is equally important yet individually unique. Developing employment practices, establishing living wages, providing health benefits and paid holidays, growing our volunteer leads program, paying our youth ATV leaders- it all has been a huge step in our growth to rock the talk. 

GRCA movement building: Hosting the international GRCA board retreat in Seattle was a mountaintop moment. Getting to mentor and encourage rock camp founders in other states and countries served to positively impact countless other young people and adults around the world. The mentorship has always been reciprocal, and the relationships built across camps are everlasting.

Partnerships with incredible organizations like KEXP, Bureau of Fearless Ideas, Teen Tix, MoPop: RCRC is collaborative to our core, working with like minded organizations has grown our programs, our reach, and enriched our curriculum.

Winning BECU Member Volunteer of the Year Award: Receiving a community-based award that celebrates volunteer commitment is the most mission-aligned grant I could possibly imagine. What a joy and honor!

Running Camps virtually during a pandemic: Staff, Board, community, donors and participants connected online and reminded all of us the importance of the space to connect, play, dream, and encourage. 

Establishing an office space: Having a space where we can hold meetings, store our well-loved instruments, and hang our shout out wall is something I’ve been so grateful for, particularly after the early years of meeting in my living room and storing equipment in Board members’ garages.

In-school and out of school programming: Starting with our in school programs at Scriber Lake High School and Totem Middle School, all the way to our new Rain City Rock School, the beat goes on beyond the summer and into a more camp-infused lifestyle for many youth who do not have summer camp access.

Amplified Teen Voices program & trajectory: Launching the ATV program was a collaborative effort, and what has grown from it has been a beautiful mix of the many voices of the youth participating, the adult advisors, and the input from other youth serving organizations. After some important pay equity shifts, ATVers started receiving stipends for their participation as well. 

Natalie Walker with Board President, aNdi pUzL at RCRC’s Gala in 2019.

Future

RCRC’s future is incredibly bright, bold, and brave. The positive impact of this organization has resonated beyond my wildest dreams. This transition creates space for a new visionary voice as we head into the creation of a new strategic plan, and as our community embraces even more growth and possibility. 

RCRC Board President aNdi pUzL has immediately sprung to action and assembled a transition team of Board members, staff, and community. I am grateful to be an active member myself. The transition team has put in incredible work so far. A transition consultant was hired. One-on-one interviews have begun with staff, board, and youth. The team continues to outline timelines for transition and find ways that RCRC can shift power to focus our efforts towards equity. An extensive executive search will take place over the next few months, and the transition team looks forward to posting the job description in March. The Board and transition team will also be hosting a virtual town hall for community members and campers who would like to know more about the transition process, and ask any questions they may have about what has been planned, and what is still in the works. Just like everything at camp, this transition process is immensely collaborative and works to value the contributions of our diverse and engaged community. 

I cherish this community and I feel so endlessly grateful to be a part of it. I’m excited about the work that RCRC will continue to do, and the ways that we will continue to innovate, create, and earn the respect of the young people and adults we serve. I look forward to submitting an application to be a bass instructor at Summer Camp, making a cameo or two in the skits, and singing the camp song from the top of my lungs from the audience. I will be the biggest fan and supporter of this organization for the rest of my life. 

One Heartbeat,

Natalie

Danielle Crivello-Chang, Natalie Walker, and Michelle O’Connor predicting the future at RCRC’s 10 year anniversary party in 2018.

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