Through the hard work of a coalition of people including our board members, volunteers, donors, partners, and staff the YWCA Pasadena-Foothill Valley’s 2019 Girls Rise Leadership Camp was a rousing success. 22 girls participated in the program over 4 weeks. Every day was filled with activities that encouraged them to find their power, build their community, explore the culture around them, expand their skills, and look toward their future.
For the first time in our Girls Rise Leadership Camp, campers had the opportunity to be trained in basic first aid skills. Raya from Safety First CPR took the girls through a series of activities including how to perform CPR on adults and infants, bandaging wounds, performing the Heimlich Maneuver, and administering an epipen.
At the YWCA we believe that success does not just mean being productive at work; it means knowing how to deal with stress, understanding your body and keeping it healthy, and maintaining a positive view of one’s self. To promote this overall wellness, the YWCA partnered with Planned Parenthood to speak with the girls regarding Gender in the Media and Understanding their Bodies. The girls were able to discuss how women are portrayed in the media and how it affects people’s perceptions of women in the real world as well as how their reproductive systems work and how to keep themselves healthy.
The girls were also provided with opportunities to gain an appreciation for exercise and the role it has in physical and emotional health. Our curriculum included weekly outings to Hansen Dam Aquatic Center to swim, as well as a Yoga workshop with Deedee Burnett to impress upon the girls that exercise could be fun, relaxing, and rewarding.
The YWCA continued its Girls Rise Leadership Camp partnership with the Huntington this year with a two-part workshop on book making and the contributions of female artists in crafts and fiber arts. Over two days, the girls undertook a project to create their own “Explosion Book”, a type of book that expands as it is opened to reveal a tapestry of text and artwork. They took inspiration from pieces The Fielding Collection of Early American Art that showcases beautiful objects made for everyday living by mostly rural New Englanders including lighting devices, fire buckets, metal implements, scrimshaw, handwoven rugs, and weather vanes.
They also had an invaluable opportunity to visit the Broad museum for a special workshop through their Art+Story and Art+Rhyme programs, which helps children explore art through creative writing and poetry. Facilitators took the girls through several pieces in the powerful Barbara Kreugar collection and the “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983” exhibit and asked them to examine the themes of identity, bodily autonomy, oppression, and resistance in the works. The girls were also tasked with creating their own creative pieces. They created poetry taking inspiration the text that Barbara Kreugar uses in her “Untitled (Your body is a battleground)” and a clothing design inspired by a piece in the “Soul of a Nation”.
“The poems that the girls created at the Broad made my jaw drop. I’m so glad that they were able to see the amazing exhibits and reflect on the power that they have to express themselves. It felt like a natural extension of the Express Yourself Program,” said Program Coordinator Amanda Montez of the workshop.
Their explosion books were not the only thing that they were able to take home. Under the tutelage of Mary Soracco, head designer at the Contrary Dame, the girls combined beads and charms to make necklaces and bracelets customized to fit their own personality.
A major feature of the program were the tours that the girls were able to take of area colleges and universities. Each offered distinct but all the more enriching experiences for the girls. Pasadena City College was their first stop of the entire camp for icebreaker games and a tour of the grounds. At Cal Poly Pomona, the girls were able to take a tour of the campus lead by the YWCA’s resident alumna, Cinthya Martinez, and speak with a panel of students at the Cal Poly Pomona Honors College who offered insights into the college experience, the honors college, and how to choose a college and major. Many thanks to Dr. Suketu Bhavsar, Director of the Kellogg Honors College, who put together the panel and hosted our campers. Finally, at FIDM, the girls were able to see student work including window displays in the theme of Purple Rain, a challenge designing Converse All-Stars, and a display of student made brands. Thank you to Caleb Oaks for leading the tour!
They also were able to take a look at their possible futures beyond higher education with a tour of Huy Fong Foods, the makers of the famous Rooster Sriracha Sauce. They were able to learn the history of the company and what methods the owner used to make it a success.
Girls Empowerment and Community Building
Women leaders are important because positions of leadership have often been reserved for men. Men are encouraged to be leaders and and embrace the power they hold. That is why it is so important to allow girls to understand that they have power and that all human beings can be leaders in the workplace, schools, and communities.
One of the most important skills that a leader can have is to have a sense of their place in their community and in the world as custodians of the environment. At the Aquarium of the Pacific, the girls were able to experience the new “Pacific Visions” building which featured interactive exhibits, art installations, and a theatre show that focused on the impact of climate change on world ecology and how humans can impact the future of our planet.
They also had the chance to build community among themselves through group games and activities. These connections are vital for girls to have a support system of peers and allow them to consider different perspectives and practice conflict resolution. Girls often tell us that they continue these friendships after the programs are done and they are an integral part of feeling empowered because they feel accepted.