By Katie Hug, Community Impact Intern at the United Way of the Greater Triangle
For the past six years, Girl Scouts – NC Coastal Pines has partnered with the United Way of the Greater Triangle to host Summer Leadership Camp where under-resourced girls spend a week of resident camp at Camp Mary Atkinson at no cost to them. In addition to traditional camp activities such as swimming, boating, and archery – activities many of these girls experience for the first time – this camp is unique in its focus on building life and leadership skills.
Campers take part in sessions that help them build their self-confidence, learn how to form and maintain healthy relationships, define their value system, and understand the importance of giving back to their communities – knowledge crucial to helping these girls see beyond their current situations. To help inspire the girls to achieve goals made during camp, businesswomen and community volunteers mentor the girls on their Take Action projects. This summer, I had the unique opportunity to serve as a mentor for one of the campers.
When I drove up through the gravel driveway to Camp Mary Atkinson I was reflecting on my years as a Girl Scout and the summers I spent at Camp Hardee and In Bath, NC, horseback riding and sailing. I walked up to the camp leadership center and the past the flag pole thinking, “I hope these girls have had as much fun and personal growth this week as I had when I went to Girl Scout camp”.
The cafeteria was loud with the chatter and laughter of new friendships forming and meals being shared. I was quickly ushered to a table with other professional women and we introduced ourselves as we passed around mashed potatoes and began to wonder in unison what our afternoon might look like. After a brief overview of the afternoon it was time to meet my camper.
As I waited patiently for my name to be called I thought about how the only thing I knew about her was that she wanted to become a young leader around ending child abuse. We met eyes and I shook her hand, she was nervous, but so was I. We found comfortable chairs and I asked her about herself and how camp was going and she insistently stared down towards her lap.
She stopped me mid question and asked, “Why do I need a mentor?” I was of course caught off guard, but I thought cautiously about the most honest thing I could say. I replied after a few moments of thought, “Well maybe you don’t need a mentor, but I need a mentor, and I seek out my mentors each day”. She thought about this for a moment, and thankfully she realized I was genuine and she became disarmed and smiled.
We may not have spoken enough about her leadership plans or goals, but we enjoyed one another’s company as she told me about her family and friends and what was important to her. At the end she had said goodbye and within a minute she came back to hug me. I wasn’t sure who got more out of the conversation, but I left camp feeling whole.
Summer Leadership Camp was made possible in part by grants from AAUW, Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Family Foundation, Greenville Noon Rotary Club, Harold H. Bate Foundation, M&F Bank, North Carolina Community Foundation and its affiliates, NC EMC, RA Bryan Foundation, Rockingham Rotary Club, Sonitrol, United Way of the Greater Triangle Women’s Leadership Council, and many others. Nearly 100 middle school girls were able to attend Summer Leadership Camp at no cost to them because of the generosity of these donors and other friends of Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines. We are so grateful to them and to all the mentors and facilitators who participated in this year’s camp. To find out about how you can participate with Summer Leadership Camp next year, please email Emily Hill or call 919-600-6347.