For years, experts have known that by mid-puberty significantly more girls experience depression than boys. Research out of the University of South Carolina recently confirmed that girls experience twice as many interpersonal stressors as do boys and they are 30% more likely to react with depression –which inhibits their ability to succeed in school or anywhere else.
During a recent staff meeting the program staff told me of their experience with a girl named, Allie. Allie was the older sister of one of our summer camp participants. Her grandmother wanted to register both girls for camp but was afraid she would never get Allie to attend. She said “Allie had issues with being around girls. “
Allie, a 16 year old high school sophomore had been dealing with bullying from numerous girls. She didn't fit the mold for cool, she wasn't the right shape or size.
Of course she was terrified to come to a camp full of girls. She would rather stay at home, alone than join.
One day Allie came with her grandmother to drop off her sister. Our program manager, Karen pulled her aside to talk to her and find out why she didn't want to come to Girls Empowerment Camp. Allie was shy and didn't really respond. So Karen invited her to go on a whale watching trip –no pressure to come every day -just one trip. Karen did however, bet her that she would want to come back.
With the right encouragement, Allie found the courage to go on the trip with 35 girls she didn’t know. The whale watching trip was a transformational experience for Allie. Everyone knew it wasn't about the whales.
Allie began to open up and risk interacting with the other girls and staff. Her grandmother thanked the staff repeatedly for getting Allie to confront her fear and for showing her that not all girls were going to be ‘mean girls’.
I hear Allie is coming back this summer
Our programs are designed for girls. We build the tools for healthy relationships and talk about the signs of abusive relationships. We talk about sex and peer pressure. We teach conflict resolution and dealing with stress. We build confidence by supplementing their academics with new experiences in Science and Technology -all in a safe and nurturing environment.
But we still have some work to do.