Camp Phoenix was founded in 2012 by three dedicated education professionals fueled by a fire for social justice for the summertime. At the core of Camp Phoenix's founding was their belief that summer learning, which extends beyond the classroom and beyond just academics, should be accessible to all youth. Since then, Camp Phoenix has been creating educational equity for Bay Area youth each summer, realizing our founders' vision for a brighter future for our community - one of equitable access to adventure, joy, leadership, nature and opportunity.

Every child should feel safe to explore their communities and their identities in the summer, finding the magic of joy, empowerment and education.
— Jackie Soohoo, Camp Phoenix Co-Founder


James, Allison, and Jackie always had one thing in common: they were "camp kids." Despite having attended different types of camps across the country, when the three met as staff members at Teach For America - Bay Area, they bonded over camp's long-lasting impact on their life, values, and education. Their pivotal summer experiences from childhood caused them to be particularly distressed by the stark inequities in summer in the Bay Area. They saw low-income youth in classrooms falling months behind their higher-income peers, despite both groups learning at the same rate during the school year. Low-income kids often sat at home, bored, while higher income kids traveled, or went to camp or enrichment programs.

As a teacher in West Oakland, Jackie recalls one of her students explaining, "Ms. Soohoo, either I stay at home and watch TV, or I go outside and die." The student’s friends had been caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting that summer, while standing in line to enter a movie theater, and she feared being outside in her neighborhood.

While discussing the lack of summer opportunities for low-income youth, an idea struck them: What if we could infuse academic rigor into the joyous, safe space of summer camp?

With that, Camp Phoenix was born. Woot! Woot! Clap! Clap! 

The Co-founders knew that low-income youth in Oakland were already powerful leaders in their own right, and didn’t need saving during the summers. What was needed was equitable access to opportunities to explore and learn. That first summer, the vision of Camp Phoenix's impact was realized. Nearly 100% of campers significantly improved their math and reading skills over the course of camp. When campers returned for the school year, teachers and principals raved over their progress. Today, Camp Phoenix has provided over 200 summer camp experiences to low-income youth from the Bay Area who otherwise wouldn't have access, and continues to expand.


  • July '13: Completes first summer session
  • Sept '13: Secures first foundation grants
  • July '14: Nearly doubles in camper size
  • Jan '15: Adds 30+ committee members
  • Aug '15: Graduates first 8th grade flock  
  • Sept '15: Launches year-round excursion program
  • Jul '16: First alumni group visits camp!
  • Sept '16: Board adds three members
  • Jan '17: Celebrates entry into fifth year


  • Provided over 200 magical summer experiences to Bay Area youth since 2013
  • Average of 2 months of learning gained in math and reading per kid each summer
  • Over 95% of campers report increased confidence after camp

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