By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Aug. 1, 2019) Girls entering sixth and seventh grade looking to learn about life skills and build self-confidence are eligible to participate in a free camp this month at the Worcester County Health Department.
The Just for Girls program will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Aug. 13-23 at the facility on 6040 Public Landing Road in Snow Hill.
The program aims to teach participants ways to learn self-esteem and decision-making. Abstinence education is also part of the program.
“I mean sixth and seventh grade for anyone can be really tough,” said Travis Brown, public information officer for the Worcester County Health Department.
Dawn Richardson, Just for Girls organizer, said 15 to 20 people typically attend the summer program.
Lynn Suarezapecheche, alcohol and other drugs prevention supervisor for Worcester County Health Department, said she hopes the camp has a positive effect on the girls’ lives.
“The Just for Girls summer program will help girls build up the resources in themselves to feel confident entering the new school year,” she said. “The program will support the girls in developing a strong and healthy self-image which has a positive effect on how they act and feel.”
“It’s really a wide umbrella,” he said. “It’s about just good life choices in general and positive influences and again building self-confidence.”
While the girls are learning, Brown emphasized they will still have fun.
“It’s a really great time,” Brown said. “It’s a good chance for the girls to meet some of their peers and network and connect and everything.”
Makya Purnell, 25, of Salisbury, a former Just For Girls participant, still holds a piece of the program close to her heart.
She recalled counting the days until she was able to attend the camp. It was something she said she looked forward to.
“I think for a lot of us growing up we anticipated being of age to be able to participate in Just for Girls because we had seen all the upper classmen in it,” Purnell said.
Purnell, a Snow Hill native, attended the Just for Girls programs during the summers of 2005-07. She said she appreciated the opportunity to have someone like Richardson to confide in.
“That is a huge deal for a little girl that is going through so many changes,” she said.
Additionally, being taught abstinence education helped her stay true to Purnell’s values in high school.
“In the back of my mind, I was still very much a product of Just for Girls,” she said.
Purnell said self-worth was the most important skill she learned while at Just for Girls.
“In terms of self-worth, I had that going into high school, so it was very hard for anybody to really get over on me because of that upbringing or those lessons learned there,” Purnell said.
Those lessons followed her as she matured. Purnell also stressed the importance of “knowing your worth” in professional and friendship situations, and it didn’t just apply in romantic relationships.
Purnell graduated in 2016 with honors from Towson University. She’s since worked for a nonprofit, the state’s department of housing and is now moving into a new role at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore to help stop violence against women. She added she hopes to pay it forward by continuing to help women.
She also started Oshun’s Garden, a community service organization in 2018 that “celebrates black women,” which also awarded a college scholarship to a Snow Hill teen.
Summer Widmyer, a public affairs specialist for the Worcester County Health Department, hopes these girls pursue their loftiest goals.
“They focus … on their goals and their dreams and their aspirations,” Widmyer said. That will help, she said, when girls are thrown into circumstances such as being bullied or pressured.
For more information or to register for the camp, call the Worcester County Health Department at 410-632-1100.