For two weeks in June, girls at Mendez Middle School participated in campGEN, where they & their mentors played games, made e-zines, learned about real beauty, healthy communication and relationships, puberty, body image and the media, and healthy bodies. They also got to make their own journals, soap, smoothies, and other crafts!
Some highlights from clubGEN, from one of the mentors:
Day 1: We did teambuilding and communication and the girls decorated journals and made collages.
Day 2: We talked about healthy communication and relationships and had the girls think about the different qualities of a genuine friendship/relationship. Then we did an activity where we all tried to map out the differences between respect and abuse. Before the day ended we showed them different PSAs, mostly focusing on cyber bullying. That was the day where much of the trust between leaders and girls developed and during the PSAs you could just see the light bulbs come on. A lot of the girls later talked about how they shouldn’t bully people who aren’t “cool” because they should just be themselves and deserved respect. We also talked a lot about different questions they had about relationships and dating.
Day 3: We covered topics around healthy bodies and puberty. As part of our discussion on healthy bodies, we made fresh juice with mangoes, guava, kiwis, apples, and peaches and taught them about different aspects of nutrition as we did it. They were very excited to see the process and make their own concoctions. It was a messy but awesome day.
Day 4: The girls and facilitators talked about healthy bodies and addressed questions the girls had about different topics. One of my favorite moments of the whole camp was when they wrote “Just Because” poems and then shared them with the group. They had some awesome things to say and were really excited about the whole concept. We spent the last couple of hours making hula hoops to encourage different kinds of physical activity, and then we had a hula hooping party.
Day 5: We talked about body image and the media and taught them about ideal vs genuine beauty and showed them different PSAs and examples of photoshop. The girls started a Glogster to compile different ideas for inspiration on a video that we recorded on Tuesday. The girls got to use flipcams and we showed them the process of video editing.
Day 6: We had a guest artist come in and talk to the girls about entrepreneurship and her soapmaking business and we all got to make soap, which was really fun.
Day 7: We set up a GENaustin photobooth with props and then had a dance party and talked and bonded with the girls. We ended the camp with the girls showing us their cheers and doing a compliment circle before saying goodbye.
The most rewarding thing, I’d say, about the last two weeks at Mendez was seeing the complete transformation in the girls’ attitude from beginning to end. Towards the beginning of the camp they were divided amongst themselves, which slowly faded as they participated in activities, and eventually developed into a team. The last day, without any encouragement, they did some cheers together without criticisizing each other, poking fun, or saying anything negative. It was so rewarding to see what two weeks of campGEN could do to their education, communication, and level of self-confidence. – Rebecca, GENaustin Americorps Summer Vista
Being there for two weeks gave us the opportunity to develop deep trust with the girls and create a safe space where they could come share their experiences every day. It was awesome to see the progress- especially with the really shy girls in the beginning turning into leaders the last days. Seeing the girls respond to the curriculum was very rewarding. – Claudia, GENaustin Americorps Summer Vista