Volunteers with the Wayne County Extension and Community Association and staff with the Cooperative Extension Service are trying to change the world -- 10 girls at a time.

They are doing it through a program in its fourth year, The Power of Girls.

"We started it because I went to a professional development event with county agents in Sampson County and they were doing a similar program," said Michelle Estrada, family and consumer science agent with Wayne County Cooperative Extension. "I got so excited and shared the idea with the ECA volunteers here."

Each year, 10 girls are invited to take part in the program.

"We reach out to the 4-H program, both traditional and afterschool programs," Estrada said.

"They refer the girls to us. We want to be sure we're reaching girls that the program can be a benefit to."

The first three years, girls ages 10 through 14 participated. This year it was narrowed down to girls ages 11 through 13, which seemed to work better, Estrada said.

The two-day event is packed with a variety of activities.

Those included a cooking session, where the girls learned kitchen and food safety. And they made their own lunch, chicken stir-fry and strawberry shortcake in a cup.

They also learned about table manners and how to order food, sit at the table and use a napkin and the different silverware before getting the chance to practice what they learned at Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner.

The girls also did some shopping for outfits and shoes, an activity that taught them about budgeting. And volunteers encouraged the girls to get clothes to dress for success.

The group spent the night in a local hotel.

The next morning, they swam and exercised at the Family Y. They also had a session where they learned how to set a table.

And they got a facial and makeup tips.

The event culminated the second night with a banquet where volunteers and parents were invited.

The speaker, Jill Howell, told the girls it's more important what they have on the inside instead of the outside. And she talked about helping others.

"We told them if we're going to do this for you now, we want you to share it with somebody else," Mrs. Estrada said. "And we've seen that with the girls."

Each girl had the opportunity to model her new outfit on stage and tell a little about herself.

One of those girls was 11-year-old Emely Guzman.

She said the most fun part of the event was swimming.

"I love swimming," she said.

"The most challenging part was cooking. I never cooked chicken stir-fry before. I have made it at home since then."

Emely said everything she learned at The Power of Girls will help her in her future.

Jordan Therrien, 12, also liked swimming.

It was challenging for her to stay within the budget when shopping for her clothes.

"We learned manners and how to stand, set a table, do transactions and stay within a budget," she said. "And these things will help me in the future."

Makayla Newcomb, 13, also loved swimming and also found it hard to stay within a budget.

But she, too, feels everything she learned will help her in the future.

"We cannot change the world, but we can change 10 girls each year," Estrada said. "In the future, they're going to remember this experience."

Estrada would like to start a similar program for local boys. Anyone who would like to donate time or money to the program should call Estrada at 919-731-1525.