Encampment Board Hires Margot Gibney as Executive Director

The Encampment for Citizenship Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Margot Gibney has been named Executive Director. Ms. Gibney has a long history with the Encampment. She attended the program as a youth, served as a summer staff member, and served as Executive Director from 1986 to 1993.

Ms. Gibney has over 25 years of experience in nonprofit management. Her expertise includes program design, implementation, and evaluation, training and supervision, fundraising, financial management, and community outreach. In addition to her work with the Encampment, Ms. Gibney has served as the Executive Director of the Youth Treatment & Education Center in San Francisco, California. She has worked extensively with at-risk youth and young adults as the Director of the Collaborative Justice Courts and in other capacities.

Since 2010, Ms. Gibney has been working with a group of committed Encampment alums to re-establish the Encampment for today’s youth. As Project Director, Ms. Gibney led fundraising and program planning efforts for the inaugural 21st century Encampments in Richmond, Virginia in 2013, and Chicago, Illinois in 2014. She worked closely with staff and youth during both summer programs and continues to provide year-round support and advocacy.

Board Chair Ada Deer remarked, “We are deeply honored that Margot has agreed to be our Executive Director. Margot personifies the Encampment. She got the Encampment bug in 1971 and her passion for social justice has never wavered. Her singular dedication, drive and devotion have encouraged us all and propelled the EFC forward.” Board Treasurer Steve Leibman added, “This hire shows the Encampment intends to be here for our young people today and into the future.”

The Encampment for Citizenship was founded in 1946 by Algernon D. Black of the New York Society for Ethical Culture and civic leader Alice K. Pollitzer, and was sponsored by the American Ethical Union. The Encampment provides youth from a wide variety of backgrounds with a living, working, and learning experience that enables them to gain an increased awareness and understanding of themselves and others. The summer program develops social responsibility and leadership skills by encouraging critical thinking and providing in-depth exposure to current social issues through workshops, field trips in the community, and the use of arts and social media. The Encampment archives are housed at Virginia Commonwealth University’s James Branch Cabell Library Special Collections and Archives.

The Encampment Board of Directors extends congratulations to Margot Gibney and anticipates a continued strong working relationship as the Encampment moves forward.

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 “The Alumni Weekend was inspiring – I really enjoyed the groups where the young people and alums shared. It was great seeing the young people open to their personal growth and to the work of social change. They were making plans to go back to their communities and do things they feel passionate about. It’s inspiring to hear from the alums how much EFC was a transformative experience that helped them to work for change. This weekend with fellow alums and the Encampers is re-invigorating and it’s an opportunity to contribute by supporting the young people and other alums.”  — Maria M. Hernandez (79 SD).

We heard similar sentiments from the many alums and supporters who participated in the Intergenerational Weekend at the summer program. Current Encampers and alums from decades starting in the 1940s gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago to learn from and teach each other. Together, Encampers and alums created a unique multi-generational community of people who care about social justice that crosses ethnic/cultural, geographic, and socio-economic lines.

Alums from seven decades joined the 2014 Encampers at the summer program in Chicago July 18-20. This was a great learning experience for new Encampers and the alums and a fun one. It is also core to our development of a multi-cultural intergenerational network of social change activists. Encampers and alums participated in workshops and discussion groups based on topic and/or geographic location.

“One of the highlights for me was having workshops where the alums shared experiences of their careers and choices and presented that to the group and then we had small group discussions in workshops. In my case, I was part of a group that talked about working in the non-profit field. Young people asked us lots of questions, shared their experience working with non-profits and they got first-hand experience and perspective that typically is not available to them. As a result, alumni are now helping Encampers apply for college, learn dance from a professional dancer, connect with community service projects, and other life-changing opportunities that they just would not get otherwise.” (Steve Leibman, 69MT)

Elliott Black (81DC) reflects on the Education Panel: “I found my faith in the future of our nation and world being restored as I listened to each of you. The living spirit of my grandfather (Algernon D. Black, co-founder of the EFC) and Eleanor Roosevelt and Nanny Pollitzer were very much present in that room. What the founders of EFC did was to plant seeds in people, and keeping the EFC going (and resurrecting it again after periods of decline) is about planting and re-planting seeds, nurturing them, watering them so that they grow into ever-expanding trees and gardens, dropping more seeds along the way.  It’s enormously important work.”

The Saturday night celebration event summed up the spirit of this engaging community experience, further inspiring and re-invigorating the participants. Each Encampment workshop showcased their work and time together in the most creative and moving ways possible with music, dance, spoken word, and multi-media presentations. We also had the pleasure of having local Encampment families attend the event and give praise and support to the young Encampers. Jason Warwin, EFC alum from 1989, co-founder of The Brotherhood/Sista Sol, East Harlem, NY, gave a moving keynote speech at the celebration event. “I came to the Encampment with a little bit of anger, and a little sense of being oppressed. The Encampment for me was a life changing experience.  Like many of you have said already, like all the alums have said over and over again, it transformed my life . . .  Sometimes you get motivated to create change because you are angry and sometimes you just love the people. We do this because we love humanity, because we love our people, because we love the idea of freedom, of democracy — not because we hate anybody.”


“My Encampment experience was amazing, fun-filled and definitely a learning experience. I got to participate in multiple service learning projects including a shelter visit making beds and cooking food for the homeless. The Encampment wasn’t just work, work, work. We got to play and explore Chicago’s amazing downtown and other sight-seeing activities. Most importantly the Encampment gave me that family, community feel. We all became so close over a short period of time and leaned on each other for support.” –Kendra D (14IL)

Encampment 2014 was a huge success! Young people came from around the country, eager to make a difference. They created a working community focused on civic engagement and social justice. The excellent staff brought a wealth of knowledge and skill to the programming and community building. Headed by program director Jane Sapp, they updated the EFC’s time-tested methodology for today’s youth. The Chicago area is home to many EFC alums who enriched the program from start to finish.

Chicago itself served as a laboratory for exploring social justice issues. The Encampers got to meet with:

  • Father Pfleger, nationally-known human rights activist;
  • Timuel Black and Susan Power, elders and activists in the African-American and American Indian communities;
  • Barbara Ransby of the Social Justice Initiative, and
  • Mary Mitchell, reporter for the Chicago Sun Times.

They served meals and made beds at a homeless shelter. They did an environmental service learning project with the Shedd Aquarium. And, they learned how to line dance!

In keeping with EFC tradition, the 2014 Encampment spent the first week establishing their internal community and then used the Chicago area as a laboratory for exploring social justice issues. As part of this process, the group met with Father Michael Pfleger who is a nationally-known human rights activist and the pastor of Santa Sabina Catholic Church, an African-American parish on Chicago’s Southside. Father Pfleger is a controversial priest who has successfully provided alternatives to violence and continues to organize around issues of injustice in Chicago and beyond. Staff member Alex Coffin-Lennear reflected on the group’s introduction to the church: “. . . we were reminded of the magnitude of the violence by a 10’X10’ wall filled with pictures of children, teenagers, and adults of Chicago who had lost their lives to senseless acts of violence. Saint Sabina is a different kind of Catholic church— the emphasis is on social justice issues, the eradication of gangs, and the programs developed within the church to assist not only their members, but the people of the community.”

At Pacific Garden Mission Encampers served meals and made beds for homeless people. The Encampers were struck by how many people are homeless – 918 people sleep at the mission every night and 1,400 meals are served daily. They wanted to know, what does it take to feed all these people? Their guide at the shelter was a homeless man who told them his moving story. They got to make a lot of beds, some with worn-out sheets in the huge rooms filled with bunk beds. And they got to serve meals to those without homes. Many Encampers remarked on how profound this experience was for them. Making the beds on July 4th was huge. Normally I would be with friends and family celebrating, but your problems aren’t problems once you walk into the mission.”

Each Encamper participated in a core workshop:

  • Social Movements (facilitated by Michael Carter),
  • Through an Indigenous Lens, (facilitated by Mabel Picotte)
  • Inner View/Community Journalism (facilitated by Anika Nailah), and
  • Community Organizing (facilitated by Aisha Truss-Miller).

The Inner View/Community Journalism group was invited by veteran reporter Mary Mitchell to visit the offices of the Chicago Sun Times and meet with her. This resulted in a booklet that gives reflections of the youth on their EFC experiences, poems, interviews with each other, and an interview with Mary Mitchell. It features beautiful photographs taken by Encamper K.C. O’Hara.

The Encampers also got to meet with and learn from two venerable elders of the Chicago community: Timuel Black and Susan Kelly Power. Mr. Black is a noted educator, historian and activist, and was the organizer for the Chicago contingent of the 1963 March on Washington. “I never lose hope,” he once said. “I believe that I have responsibilities to help younger people to obtain hopes and dreams. Their present condition may be very discouraging; my aim is to help them regain a sense of hope for the future. My main interest is in building a better America, building a better world.” Susan Kelly Power, historian and one of the founders of the American Indian Center in Chicago, is concerned with setting the historical record straight and making sure the American Indian population in Chicago has a voice.

The 2014 Encampers and staff created a community where each person felt heard and respected. Through the traditional EFC methodology, the Encampers – as individuals and as a group – gave voice to their concerns, new ideas, and hopes for the future. In addition, program director Jane Sapp guided the integration of art modalities into the summer program. Along with their core workshop, each Encamper also participated in an arts workshop (music, writing, and dance). The Encampers showcased their multi-media and arts presentations at the celebration evening that marked the end of the summer program. They also wrote and performed two songs. Ms. Sapp commented: “For the young people who participated it’s as simple and as profound as we gave them an experience of a community. We honored their experiences and helped them find ways to express what is already inside of them – to experience themselves as “knowers” and for all of us to learn from each other.”