The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 15, 2013

Girls learn how to be leaders at new camp

YWCA hosts first Girls Inc. Leadership Camp

By Amanda Dyslin

---- — MANKATO — Oh, how the times have changed for young woman.

Members of Girls Clubs of America wrote a bill of rights in 1951, and on the list was the right to fulfill the “almighty job of homemaking and motherhood.” And Sheri Sander-Silva, associate director of the YWCA, absolutely thinks motherhood and homemaking are important options for young women, and so do the nine girls involved in this week's first Girls Inc. Leadership Camp in Mankato.

But the point is, in the 60 years since that list was created, those things became “options.” In 2001, the national program Girls Inc. updated that bill of rights, including this time the importance of “being themselves and resisting gender stereotypes.”

Now that Sander-Silva and camp facilitator Carmono Lane brought the Girls Inc. curriculum to Mankato, the girls ages 11 to 14 have had the opportunity in numerous ways to decide what rights they have, what stereotypes they still face, and what they can do as leaders to combat a variety of those issues.

The results are telling after just four days of camp, having begun Monday and wrapping up today. In creating their own bill of rights this week, one of Sander-Silva's favorites was: “Girls can do any job without being criticized.”

Delaina Ward, 11, seemed to embody that spirit. One of her favorite things to do is play football.

“I'm really working on being a leader,” she said, adding that the camp has taught her a variety of leadership styles and arenas to implement them — school, with friends, in her community and eventually the workplace.

“You can accomplish just about anything,” Delaina said of what she's learned through Girls Inc.

For the most part the girls met in the education room at Pathstone Living from 8 a.m. to noon each day. Sander-Silva and Lane used Girls Inc. Leadership and Community Action curriculum to help the girls recognize themselves as leaders, to better understand their rights and responsibilities, and to feel empowered to champion social change.

Sander-Silva trained in the Girls Inc. curriculum in Minneapolis and decided it would be a good fit to bring to Mankato for (roughly) grades 6-8 girls because the YWCA's Girls on the Run program targets girls in grades 3-5. Lane, a Girls on the Run coach, jumped on board to plan the sessions and help facilitate the camp.

This week the girls mapped out the places in the area where they feel safe/unsafe and powerful/unpowerful; they made posters with images of unrealistic images of women and realistic ones; and they studied their constitutional rights, among other things.

Today the camp will wrap up with a half-day workshop at Fusion Farm working with horses and learning skills such as self-awareness, personal strengths and resilience.

“I want them to walk away feeling confident in their ability to be a leader and make change,” Sander-Silva said.

The girls also took time out for some fun outdoors. To promote camaraderie and teamwork — and just to unwind and give the brain a break — the girls gathered in Sibley Park Thursday morning for some games.

Copycat was one of them, where a girl looks away while a circle of girls chooses a leader to act out some kind of motion, which the others mimic. The other girl comes back to the middle of the circle and has to identify the leader of the group, who changes the movements the group is mimicking throughout the exercise.

Caylie Clarke was the leader for only about 10 seconds before she was ID'd.

“She was looking right at her. Not her fault,” one of the girls said. “Nice job, Caylie.”

Clarke, 13, who moved to Mankato before last school year, said the camaraderie with the other girls has been good this week. She's walking away with more self-confidence.

“One thing I learned is girls should be able to stand up for each other,” she said.

Sander-Silva said she'd like to hold the camp again in Mankato if sponsors and funding become available. For the first time holding it, having the girls come from nine different schools in the region, she said it's been a big success.

“It's been an awesome week,” she said. “I'm actually sad that it's ending.”