Jenny Cardwell, VP Fund Development, Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska
It was a personal pleasure for me to be able to participate in last week’s YWECamp at Catron Camp and Retreat Center in Nebraska City. Thirteen young women in high school and 13 women mentors participated in the program, which took place at two sites over two separate weekends. (There was also a program at Lakeview Cabin in North Platte.) YWECamp is part of a series of leadership programs that our council provides to girls who are in high school. This particular installment, YWECamp, is a one-on-one mentoring experience designed to give girls exposure to professional women and to hear and share, stories about personal leadership. We believe that a girls’ leadership potential blooms when she is with other girls, and this case, other women, with whom she can feel safe without the pressure of school, social cliques and boys. At YWECamp, the activities are collaborative and girl-led. In this environment, the girls are empowered to make decisions about the how the program will unfold and they learn by doing, by sharing and by spending time with women they look up to as role models. For YWECamp,the girls and their weekend mentors were matched based upon their shared interests.
The activities in which the “pairs” participated included leadership circles for both the girls and the women (separately), yoga, low and high challenge course elements, archery, dutch oven cooking, horseback riding, financial literacy, the art of conversation, etiquette and a formal dinner—complete with time for networking.
On the final day, the women and the girls came together for a combined leadership circle, which proved to be one of the most powerful sessions of the weekend. Each of the mentors, the girls, the volunteers and staff who were present, was able to share one descriptive word of encouragement with every other person in the circle. Everyone was given a plain flower pot at the beginning and when someone described you, that word was written on your flower pot, until each of the pots was filled with words of praise and kindness. Some of the highlights were: Charismatic, Awesome, Amazing, Super Star, Writer, Leader, Big Hearted, Empathetic, Teacher, Mentor and Friend.
At the conclusion of both YWECamp events, we asked the adult women, who mentored the girls, what the experience meant to them. Here are a few responses:
“I cannot tell you how fulfilling this camp was for me again this year. It was awesome! Since we parted ways on Sunday, I have received several messages from Johnna about her new walking program along with pictures from her route. I have also been assisting one of the other mentors with her budget (which stemmed from the financial literacy presentation). I feel truly blessed for the opportunity that you all have given me.” – Karen Douglas, ADP Screening and Selection Services, Inc.
“There really aren’t words to describe the amazing experience I had at the Young Women’s Executive Camp this weekend. Girl Scouts is an incredible organization and I am so blessed to have been inspired by the young ladies and the other adult mentors.” – Kiersten Hill, Community Services Fund of Nebraska
“It was such a pleasure to be invited back to participate in the YWE Camp. While I immensely enjoyed mentoring the Girl Scouts, I must admit I may have received even more from the experience than the girls. I had such an amazing time at the camp and the experience was life changing for me. I am so appreciative that I have been able to participate in the program for the past two years. I am also quite impressed that Girl Scouts offers this experience. I wish that when I was in high school, I had participated in such a wonderful event.” –Heather Ingraham, Borsheims
“Thank you so much for including me in this leadership camp—what an amazingly enriching experience. Words can’t express what I gained from this encounter. Again, thanks!” –Macala Hoffschneider, Great Western Bank
“I’m blessed to be part of another amazing YWE Camp program. I enjoyed meeting extraordinary, unique and inspiring ladies (girls, mentors and staff). My heart is smiling every time I think about the camp. Thank you for building girls that can do anything and I’m grateful to be part of it. “ –Ayele Atayi, Lozier Corporation
And here is what two of the girls had to say:
“I am going to try my best to stay involved, I want to do camp counseling because I think it would not only help me but other girls, too.” –LaTerra, Girl Scout
“I think that the YWE Camp experience is life changing, as cliché as it sounds. It was truly amazing to see women who have faced many challenges . . .and were still able to find the drive to succeed. It is a real eye opener, an experience that many should try and take advantage of.” –Jennifer, Girl Scout
At the end of the final leadership circle, I knew, just like the song from the musical Wicked, “I had been changed for good because I knew you.” I, too, am a better person for having met, and having learned from the young ladies, their mentors, my co-workers and all of the volunteers who helped make this amazing camp experience possible.
It’s true, one girl can make a difference and girls (and women) together can change the world.
Yours in Girl Scouting,
Special thanks to this year’s sponsors: Union Pacific, Borsheims, Lozier, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Woodmen of the World
And this year’s mentors: Folu Adepitan (Union Pacific), Ayele Atayi (Lozier Corporation), Karen Douglas (ADP Screening and Selection Services, Inc.), Jenn Hatcher (KNOP-TV), Kiersten Hill (Community Services Fund of NE), Macala Hoffschneider (Great Western Bank), Heather Ingraham (Borsheims), Sarah Railsback (Geist Global), Latrice Rice (Union Pacific), Terri Rich (Nebraska Furniture Mart), Laura Roccaforte (The Learning Exchange), Angie Schendt (Woodmen of the World), and Xinrou Tan (Union Pacific)
And this year’s mentees: Ali, Anna, Breanna, Elanor, Janae, Jennifer, Johnna, Katie, LaTerra, Meg, Mia, Natalie, and Tea Anna
If you would like to participate in this leadership program next year or would like to mentor a girl at YWECamp, please contact Lori Williamson by email or call 402-779.8239.