In the News

Big Brothers Big Sisters Camp Teaches Girls Leadership, Tech Skills

Posted: June 14, 2016

By ERIN FLYNN

HARRISONBURG — Twenty-one rising eighth-grade girls from Thomas Harrison and Skyline middle schools are getting a sneak peak into college life this week.

Photo: Maria Jurado (left), 12, and Yanessa Pacheco, 12, use a GoPro camera as they learn how to shoot and edit video on Monday. They’re taking part in the Young Women’s Leadership Project camp at James Madison University through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County. (Photos by Daniel Lin / DN-R) During the camp, which began Monday and ends Thursday, the girls will learn about technology and participate in summer activities while living in a dorm on campus. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County is hosting its first Young Women’s Leadership Project camp at James Madison University.

“For me, I’m so used to my own bedroom,” said Claudia Portillo, a 12-year-old student at Thomas Harrison. “It’s so different to see what the people at college live in.”

A New Lens

One of the camp’s goals is to teach students how they can use technology in a positive way.

“Our big push is to make the girls more critical of digital technology,” said Jen Almjeld, leader of the camp and a JMU writing professor. “What we want to do is to step back … and think about what we put out there. We want to equip them to have control over their own image.”

The girls will use laptops, iPads and GoPros provided by the university to tell a story through “velfies,” or video selfies, and mini-movies.

The camp, Almjeld said, introduces the students to new skills, such as filming and editing.

Photo: Campers JaNique Jackson (left), 13, shoots video with Josie Koogler (center), 13, and counselor Ocean Aiello on Monday.

“I like it because I want to ... study photography,” Claudia said. “[I’m excited about] using different types of cameras to film scenes.”

For their final project, the participants will create a public service announcement for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“That’s just teaching them to give back to the community and get involved in the community in different ways,” said Molly Jackson, the project coordinator.

The camp will end with a presentation of the media projects.

‘A Crucial Time Frame’

The camp is a culminating event for the middle school students, who have been participating in an after-school program sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

In the after-school program, Jackson said, the students have learned the importance of a positive self-image.

“It’s just such a crucial time frame for girls. There’s just a lot going on,” she said. “I think this is kind of the age when you step into adulthood more … and you learn to be yourself really. It’s definitely a trying time.”

The students also have integrated the lessons learned into projects, such as blogs, throughout the school year.

One project included taking photos for the “Like a Girl” exhibit, which is available for viewing at the Festival Student and Conference Center’s JMU Lisanby Gallery. The photos show what it’s like being a girl in America.

The after-school program and camp are being funded through a $25,000 Neighbor of Choice grant from the Merck Foundation and private donations. Big Brothers Big Sisters recently received another $25,000 grant that will allow the program and camp to continue next year.

Contact Erin Flynn at 574-6293 or eflynn@dnronline.com

*Reprinted with permission from the Daily News-Record 

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County is a youth-services organization that pairs adult mentors in professionally guided, one-to-one matches with children facing adversity. As an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, the organization holds itself accountable for children in the program to achieve positive, measurable outcomes through research-based methods. Among other improvements, local evaluation data shows that children served progress academically, avoid delinquency, and experience increased self-confidence. Founded locally in 1976 as an outreach of Trinity Presbyterian Church, the organization is the largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency in the state of Virginia, serving 638 children in 2015. 

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225 North High Street, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, 540.433.8886