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Camp Culture 

A new summer camp offers life coaching and cultural connections for girls in Spokane

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH
  • Caleb Walsh

Children flutter with excitement at the end of the school year, envisioning lazy mornings, theme parks, camping and lots of summer fun with friends. As parents, the challenge of juggling work and kids with plenty of time on their hands is real. We can default to stocking the fridge and providing electronic devices for entertainment, or seek out more meaningful activities to push our kids toward personal growth and healthy development.

click to enlarge Dolezal.jpg

While some kids are chasing down the ice cream truck or riding roller coasters the week after school ends, a select group of girls will be attending the first-ever "Transformations" empowerment camp in Spokane. This camp, designed to support young girls of color ages 11 to 14, will sustain throughout the year with monthly mentorship.

Identifying the need for intervention with preteen and teenage girls of color in the region, YWCA CEO Regina Malveaux conceived the new summer day camp. The one-week event will be held at the YWCA June 16-19 from 9 am-3 pm, and will extend throughout the year with monthly events to keep the girls and mentors connected.

The camp was inspired when Malveaux was sought out as a mentor for local black girls struggling with identity and self-esteem. Her conversations with these girls and subsequent interactions with other families in the area sparked the idea of an annual program. Beyond her personal enthusiasm, the concept directly fulfills the YWCA's two-part mission to empower women and eliminate racism, and offers families an unprecedented opportunity for their daughters to be encouraged and enlightened by professional women of color.

The day camp, which debuts June 16 at the Central YWCA building at 930 N. Monroe, features a four-part curriculum that emphasizes valuing self, forging healthy relationships, resolving conflict and celebrating identity. Featured components include workshops on what to do when you are bullied, projects celebrating personal uniqueness, films addressing body image and training in ethnic hair care.

The week will culminate with a "Dare to Shine" field trip to Eastern Washington University, where the girls will have lunch with students and staff of color, participate in fun activities and tour the campus. EWU students Joshuena Williams and Jackie Vaughn are coordinating hands-on components of the girls' tour at Eastern. Volunteer mentors will be paired with camp attendees and plan to reconnect on a monthly basis throughout the year to establish continuity and consistent reinforcement of the positive ideals learned throughout the week.

Registration is limited to 10 girls in an effort to keep the mentorship camp personal. (To register or refer a girl for the camp, call 789-9309. Some transportation assistance is available.)

Malveaux says the intimate nature of the camp is "important in creating effective interventions" and "will provide much-needed socio-emotional support and guidance for positive development in our girls." Undoubtedly, a camp like this would make the late Maya Angelou proud. She is often quoted for saying, "I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels," and that is exactly what this camp aims to accomplish. ♦

Rachel Dolezal, formerly of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d'Alene, is an award-winning artist and activist who teaches courses in art, Africana history and culture at area universities.

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