An Interview with Andrea and Kimberly about GEN
Contributed by: Elena Carey
Andrea has participated in campGEN. Her mom, Kimberly, presented a session on self-appreciation at the 2015 We Are Girls Austin Conference. Andrea and Kimberly plan to attend We Are Girls Austin this fall and agreed to speak with us about their experiences with GEN. Thank you so much, Andrea and Kimberly!
How did you find out about Girls Empowerment Network (GEN)?
I teach women’s empowerment workshops through Mariposa Pathway, a nonprofit. Last year, I presented at the We Are Girls Conference about self-appreciation. It was so amazing. I saw all these girls and all these different workshops. [GEN staff] were talking about camp and I was like “wow, this would be awesome for my daughter.” During the summer, I asked if there was a campGEN scholarship available and that’s how Andrea got there.
What do you like most about Andrea being involved in GEN?
Andrea’s camp experience was amazing. The very first day at arrival, I can feel that it is going to be amazing. The energy is high, right from the start. The GEN staff have these amazing flowers wrapped around their hair; these are my kind of people. And the welcome was warm right from the beginning.
Everyday when I picked up Andrea, I was really interesting in knowing what she had received that day. She was getting in the car so excited to share everything that she learned. And I was learning very quickly that Andrea was actually receiving workshops all day long. She was learning life skills that are gonna be with her for the rest of her life. It’s all self-care and it’s what I teach to adults. For her to be in an atmosphere where she can receive it at her level with her peers, and then come home excited every day, and then after camp beg to go back and just say “I wish it was time to go back already,” — that feels really good to me. After camp, she said that she wants to write a book about self-care. She wants to share everything that she learned with everyone that she can.
Why do you think GEN programs are important?
Spreading these messages to this particular target audience at this particular time in their lives will change the direction and the course of their lives forever. This age group is ideal for what GEN is teaching. This one tool that resonates so loud with me is advanced gratitude. And for me, that is so beautiful. You might not have it right now, but you might start thinking about it. Advanced gratitude brings it back to the present so that you can appreciate where you are and what you have right now, but to never lose sight of those things you want.
What would be your advice to other parents who are considering getting their daughters involved with GEN programs?
That’s easy. I would say: don’t delay. For me,as a mom, it’s the greatest gift that you can give; it reinforces those things we’re teaching at home. But you know sometimes when you hear it from mom or you hear it from dad, it’s different than hearing it and letting it resonate while in the circle of your friends. You start to realize that you’re not alone. And sometimes it’s just our thinking that needs to change. GEN plants amazing seeds that are sure to grow. I think every young girl needs to go through this program.
What would you say to someone who’s considering providing a scholarship to a girl who wants to attend the We Are Girls Conference by donating $30 to GEN?
It’s a small investment for a priceless experience.
How have you seen Andrea changed or affected by her time in campGEN?
Instead of seeking other people to invest in you, GEN got Andrea to develop ways to invest in herself. A lot of times, we’re looking for other people to validate who we are, but GEN teaches you it’s all inside, it’s about how you think about things, it’s about your attitude.
What do you think is the best part about campGEN?
I think the best part about campGEN is that it helps you choose to love yourself and it teaches you these things that you would never think of, you would never know about. You know a lot of stuff after you leave.
What are some things you wouldn’t have known about or thought about if it wouldn’t have been for campGEN?
Advanced Gratitude — I wouldn’t know about that. I also wouldn’t know about “letting go.” Because when I want something, I never let it go. I wanted an iPhone, but sometimes I have to let go of the things that I want. Sometimes you just have to wait and be patient.
What were some of your favorite activities at campGEN?
My favorite activity was the worry doll. Because you can tell your worry doll all your worries and keep them in the worry doll, then not worry about anything else.
How does GEN help girls?
I think it helps girls to be true to themselves.
What was it like working with the campGEN leaders?
Everyday I was tired, I wanted to go up to sleep. Because I had to wake up every day at 7 and we live all the way in Pflugerville and it’s in Austin and sometimes there’s traffic, so I was really tired, but the leaders were tired too, but they were still enthusiastic. They would have so much energy that they didn’t care if they were tired or not.
Miss Caroline, the Director, she said “throw glitter, not shade,” which means, for example, if my mom was wearing these sunglasses that did not look good to me, if I said I did not like them and I think they look wrong on her, then, somebody would say to me “look, throw glitter, not shade.” That means don’t throw negativity, don’t judge.
Was there anything you were struggling with that GEN helped you with?
Yes. I was struggling with if I loved myself because the littler things can get me frustrated and I beat myself up. Littler things, like sometimes I don’t think I’m pretty enough. I’m too hard on myself. GEN teaches us about loving ourselves and that helped me.
How did campGEN change you?
It made me be aware of more things. Like, if I was rude to somebody, I think about that I don’t know what they’re going through. So, just kill people with kindness.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Kimberly: For me, I don’t even really know everything about GEN. But what I do know, I find very exciting and I love the mission. Even though I don’t know each of the programs, I know the effects the programming has had on Andrea. I want to let every parent know about the camp. I want to make sure this camp is made available to everyone who is less fortunate, because those are probably the ones who need it. I think that the price point is very fair. However, it will immediately eliminate many, many, many who need to be there. I am very aware of having different cultures represented. Money sometimes holds people up. I’m one of those people who just asks: “is there a scholarship available?” even if I don’t see it posted. So my personal goal is to just make sure every girl knows about the camp. I think every girl needs an opportunity to get to this camp.
Andrea: When you go to campGEN, there’s a lot of other girls there and you feel comfortable. One of the rules was “what people say here stays here.” So, they create sanctuary. They were pretty good rules, pretty fair. Another one is “one diva, one mic,” which means if you want to say something and you’ve said a lot of stuff already, put your hand down and let someone else speak. I have a problem with that because I have a lot of good answers. [GEN staff] just make you feel safe.
Kimberly: The physical space was really nice, too. On the first day, I’m one of those ones: I want to come in and I want to see. So they did let me come in. All the posters that they had handmade with the different quotes. I would come in and take pictures and post them on Facebook, because I found them to be very empowering and inspiring. So whoever thinks of those posteres, I love those. They have those posters at We Are Girls, too. And I just walk around taking pictures because I can’t take in enough of it. It’s so good, so good.
Andrea: P.S. I love the campGEN song!
Would you like to contribute to We Are Girls to support empowering young girls like Andrea? Visit bitly.com/wearegirls2016 to give.
P.S. Are you a Houstonian? We Are Girls Houston takes place April 29, 2017. Register early here if you just can’t wait!