A hallmark of Girls LEAD! camps is programming that empowers girls’ summers through a wide range of hands-on activities that build girls of strength, courage, and wisdom – but what happens when hands-on is suddenly a no-go?
With a global pandemic still at its height during the summer months, Summer Camp 2020 went digital. The program’s focus – on leadership and activism, on STEM and the arts, on health and safety, on financial literacy – remained the same, however.
“It’s important to show our girls, parents, and community that we continue to care about our girls’ well-being, and support their growth and development just as much on a virtual platform as we do when we meet in person,” explained Dr. Rochelle Garner, executive director of Girls LEAD!
More than a dozen girls attended this year’s camp, which still featured many different programs and guest speakers. One of their favorites was a songwriting workshop with professional Nashville artist Kyshona Armstrong, who led campers through brainstorming activities that helped them create four original songs as part of a community partnership with the Levitt Pavilion.
“As we entered the summer months, we wanted to explore new and innovative ways to connect artists with students and still be in community,” said Madeline Hart, director of outreach and community engagement for Levitt Pavilion. “These virtual music lessons were inspiring and interactive workshops that explored the power of popular song and what it takes to be an artist in the real world.”
Other activities included learning to write HTML code, researching social justice issues in the community, engaging in a group read of “Life in Motion” by Misty Copeland (the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre), and watching cooking demonstrations while learning more about nutrition and healthy bodies. Morgan Payne, a two-time Girls LEAD! camp coach and alumna of YW’s girls programming, said that shifting to a virtual platform had its own benefits.
“I learned a lot about myself in terms of my leadership and communication skills,” Payne said. “Girls LEAD! gave me the opportunity to develop in both of these areas. My favorite part is getting to know and develop relationships with the girls. Not being able to meet face-to-face this year challenged us to create new ways to bond, but you could still watch as they learned new things and began to pick up new hobbies. That’s so fulfilling and is one of the main reasons why I wanted to be involved again this year.”
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, feedback from both participants and parents was overwhelmingly positive.
“Having camp on a virtual platform was very interesting, but a great experience,” Payne said. “I was impressed with how efficiently each of our facilitators provided services while still keeping the girls engaged, and I was even more impressed with how positively the girls received a virtual camp. Families thought that camp was a great way for girls to stay busy and occupied as we continue to quarantine and practice social distancing. It was definitely an adjustment, but overall, a wonderful experience.”
Girls LEAD! provides in-school, after-school, and summer camp prevention education and leadership development programming that helps girls secure safe, successful futures. To learn more, visit ywcadayton.org/girlslead.