08/13/14 — Girl power

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Girl power

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 13, 2014 1:46 PM

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Veronica Quinn, 10, looks at herself in the mirror after learning how to apply age appropriate makeup during camp before the farewell formal dinner.

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Ivey Worrell, 12, beams with excitement after trying on a dress that she likes at J.C. Penney. The girls received $50 to spend at the store on a dressy outfit to add to their wardrobe.

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Brenda Nuncio, CYFAR coordinator, teaches Tearika Jones, 13, left, and Saralee Morado, 13, right, how to cook chicken stir fry as part of the camp held at the Wayne County Extension Offices.

Allison Patton isn't staying home anymore.

A little shy, she had preferred to stay home rather than to get out and meet people.

Not anymore.

The Power of Girls has changed that.

"It helped me be more social and get to know people a little better," the 13-year-old said. "And it helped me to stop being so shy."

Allison and nine other girls were all nerves when they first arrived at the Wayne Center for the two-day program, sponsored by the Wayne County Extension and Community Association through a $500 grant from the state ECA.

The girls were chosen from after-school programs, local 4-H clubs and recommendations from staff at the Cooperative Extension Service.

The ECA applied for the grant after several of its members expressed an interest in helping local girls, teaching them various social skills and even how to dress properly.

Louise Faison with the North George Club wrote the grant. But the grant wouldn't be enough to cover all expenses for the program. So members of other ECA clubs like Town and Country, Stoney Creek and the Latino Club, helped out with some of the activities. Local businesses pitched in, too.

"This is the first year we've done this program," family and consumer sciences agent Michelle Estrada said. "We'd like to do it every year. It's a great opportunity for ECA members to show leadership and do something for the community. And it's a great opportunity for the girls to really learn different skills."

The busy new world contributes to some young girls' not getting the instruction they need, Mrs. Estrada said.

"As parents, we're working, working, working and in a hurry, and we don't have the time to do things like set up a table for a meal. But it's important when the girls grow up that they know how to set up a table and other things."

Mrs. Estrada said the ECA members wanted to make sure that these girls got the chance to see and do other things -- experiences some of them would never have had otherwise.

"We wanted them to know these skills for their life," she said. "For example, the first time you go to an elegant restaurant, you see all this silverware and don't know what to do. We want them to know what to do and feel confident when that happens. And the way you feel more confident is when you know things."

Some of the girls had issues with low self-esteem, and The Power of Girls helped boost that, too.

The girls had a schedule packed with activities.

The first day they played games to get to know one another. After a table etiquette session, they traveled to Lane Tree Golf Club.

"It was a very great experience," Mrs. Estrada said. "The waitresses really helped the girls, too, giving them the opportunity to practice what they had just learned. Some of the girls had never been to a country club before, and that was also a good experience for them."

Taking time out for a little fun, the girls went to play miniature golf. Then they had an art class and painted their names on canvases and decorated them.

The girls and their adult chaperones spent the night on the floor at the Wayne Center.

The next morning, they were treated to a big breakfast of pancakes, bacon, cereal, fruits and lots of other goodies.

Of course, they needed to exercise that big breakfast off, so then they went to the Family Y and swam and had a class with one of instructors using weights. The instructor also showed the girls that they don't have to have expensive weights at home, but could use items like water bottles.

Then it was back to the Wayne Center for a cooking class. The girls made vegetable chicken stir fry and banana splits in jars. They also got a lesson on how to properly set a table.

They went shopping for a new outfit at Belk and new shoes at Target. The girls also got a makeover and their hair done by students from Mitchell's Hairstyling Academy.

"Some of the girls don't wear makeup, and we don't promote that," Mrs. Estrada said. "But it was more of how to care for their skin. They didn't have to get a makeover. This is how we wanted to empower the girls on how to make decisions about themselves."

By the end of the program, Mrs. Estrada said she saw changes in all of the girls.

"They were so serious and sad at first," she said. "It was like showing them happiness. It really made me excited to see them excited about things they'd never tried or done before.

"They're going to be able to use all the skills they've learned in the future. This experience is going to make a difference in their lives. Some of the girls would never have had some of these experiences if not for The Power of Girls."

Something as simple as painting your name on canvas.

"That's something I've never done before," 12-year-old Ivey Worrell said. "I'm going to hang it up in my room."

Cinthya Vanessa Lujano Lopez, 11, liked cooking the most. She helped cut carrots.

"I had a lot of fun," she said. "At first I was a little scared and nervous because I didn't know anybody. But I made new friends there."

Danajah Mills, 11, had so much fun making new friends that she didn't sleep much at all that night at the Wayne Center.

"I had a lot of fun swimming, exercising and painting my name," she said.

The ECA wants to make The Power of Girls an annual event. Anyone knowing of a girl who would benefit from the program or anyone wanting to help out with the program should call Mrs. Estrada at 919-731-1520.