A different kind of education will continue during summer break for girls through a Miami-Dade summer camp that combines arts and sciences — and an emphasis on empowering girls to become future leaders.
The 10-week-long summer camp, called GEM (Girls Empowerment and Mentoring), will offer anthropology, journalism, theater, dance, lyrical and modern jazz, painting, photography and leadership workshops with all-women guest speakers and partnering mentors — professors from Barry University, Florida International University and Miami Dade College, and artists’ workshop organizers from the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
GEM, now in its fourth year, started as a pilot program through Raices Hispanic Cultural Arts Center — a cultural arts program that offers young students an opportunity to explore a variety of art disciplines with the goal of having them achieve an appreciation of Hispanic artistic forms and influences.
“Girls need a lot of attention to blossom and flourish so that they can grow personally and socially,” says Vivian Greer-Digon, GEM’s program manager. The girls will be placed into two age groups: 6-10 and 11-16, with the older group acting as “big sisters,” or mentors, to the younger group.
This will be the first time that science will play a role at the camp, with anthropology and environmental studies being taught by anthropologist Anne McCudden, park manager at the 15-acre lakeside “Women's Park” on West Flagler Street, which is one of the two parks where camp activities will take place.
Girls will learn about prominent women in history at the Roxcy O’Neal Bolton Women’s History Gallery, which is housed at that park, one of the first parks in the United States “dedicated to the contributions of women made to improvements to the quality of life in Miami-Dade County.”
Alejandra G. Sarmiento, 15, of West Miami-Dade, who is in her third year in the GEM program, has attended Raices since she was 8 years old. She said the program has opened her eyes to see art in a different perspective and credits the program with helping her and her peers with “making new alliances” and building her confidence.
“It really makes us think about what we want to do with our future and provides us with many opportunities in finding our inner selves,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to more museum trips, theater activities and photography, art and film classes.
A typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. day for GEM campers will consist of four arts and science classes along with recreational activities like kickball, table tennis and soccer.
Historian and journalist Sylvia Gurinsky will teach “South Florida Women in Broadcast Journalism” to the older age group, which will highlight the important role that women play in the media. Both age groups will learn how to act on a real stage during theater classes at Miami Dade College’s auditorium, “where communication and teamwork will play a big role as the girls learn how to be in front of an audience,” Greer-Digon said.
The girls will go on field trips to PAMM and the Frost Art Museum, and the trip to Little Havana, to show them various styles of art within different galleries, “will end with arroz con pollo,” Greer-Digon said. She also plans to take the older girls on a tour of FIU “to instill the importance of higher education.” Knitting and Asian arts such as cutting paper in the shapes of butterflies, flowers and ballerinas, will also be part of the curriculum.
Joela Perez-Chaveco, 14, of West-Dade, described her favorite GEM classes: photography and film.
“We dressed up like made-up super-heroes and villains, and did photo-shoots for comic strips. For film we made our own trailers of movies we invented,” she said.
She said she looks forward to taking more drawing and painting classes, taught by Heriberto Mora, a Cuban American painter who teaches the girls visual arts like drawing, watercolor painting and sketching. Mora’s work is featured at the Lowe Art Museum and the Frost Art Museum, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Museo Berardo in Lisbon, the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame and the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York.
Elizabet Farrat, says of her daughter, Julia Campos, 12: “Not only did she learn new dance techniques but she was also involved in theater for the first time. The girls are constantly being challenged and learn how to cope with everyday situations.” She added that Julia “has experienced a tremendous personal growth.”
Greer-Digon became passionate about the arts, specifically dance, when her Cuban mother enrolled her in ballet. She operated L’Ecole de Ballet Arts Studio from 1971 to 2005, then became the program manager for Raices and GEM in 2006.
Asked why she thinks arts and sciences will help improve girls’ self-esteem, she said: “It offers them more creative and expressive ways to demonstrate the beauty of life.
“The rich artistic process that we offer has such a positive impact on the girls — it leads to self-discovery and it offers them an enriching cultural experience.”
Through a grant from the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Children’s Trust, 13 girls will be offered full scholarships to attend GEM summer camp. Greer-Digon said parents must fill out an eligibility form in person at either one of the parks and meet with her so that she can explain the process and the program one-on-one.
The cost to attend GEM is $100 per week, plus a one-time annual registration fee of $12. The camp includes early drop-off at 7:30 a.m. and late pickup until 6 p.m.
For more information, contact Greer-Digon at 305-271-0812 or emai: email@example.com.