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Summer Programs Invite Teen Girls to Become Women of Independent Means

May 21, 2000|SUSAN SPANO | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER

Canoeing, arts and crafts, swimming and horseback riding formed the order of the day when I was a girl going to camp in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. Since then, however, many summer camps have become highly specialized, focusing on topics ranging from hockey to foreign languages.

"Kids do lots of different things at camps now," says Barbara Mistick, director of the National Education Center for Women in Business at Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania. The college originated Camp Entrepreneur, a special camp developed seven years ago to teach girls how to achieve in the adult working world.

This camp and two others are designed chiefly for middle school- and high school-age girls. They seek to give young women confidence, skills that promote economic self-sufficiency and a sense of career options. Field trips to corporations, exposure to enterprising adult businesswomen, instruction and small group workshops are features of the five-day program, held on college campuses around the country. "You can't expect girls to go out and start businesses after a week at camp, but you can plant a seed about using their resources creatively," Mistick says.

This summer there will be a Camp Entrepreneur from July 17 to 21 at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, open to girls 14 to 17; applications are required. The price, $125, does not include accommodations and meals, although staff members can provide information on places to stay nearby, so an adult on this trip is necessary for supervision. In the past, many Camp Entrepreneurs have been residential, with girls staying in dorms and using campus facilities.

"Girls are developmentally ready to be independent," says Joline Godfrey, another pioneer entrepreneurship teacher. In 1996 she founded Independent Means Inc., a Santa Barbara company that creates workshops, programs and instructional material aimed at helping girls become economically savvy. When teenage girls are shown how to read stock indexes, they respond, "Cool, what next?" Godfrey says.

Camp $tart-Up, the 12-day residential camp developed by Godfrey, will be held at five locations around the country this summer, including June 18 to 30 at the Athenian School in Danville, Calif. An intensive, hands-on program that draws 13- to 19-year-olds from as far away as Europe and South America, it teaches girls such basic business concepts as marketing, operations and finance, and leadership skills, including self-confidence, teamwork and negotiation. Field trips to companies such as Birkenstock, Levi Strauss & Co. and Clif Bar show the girls how what they've learned is used in the real world. By the end of each camp session, small teams of girls devise and present plans for a business of their own.

Although the business plans don't necessarily become reality, the girls take important lessons away from the experience. One young New Yorker who attended Camp $tart-Up wrote a little book for herself and fellow campers on how to handle homesickness; another alumna wrangled an internship out of a Camp $tart-Up speaker, Nancy Evans, editor in chief of the women's Web site iVillage.com; and still another camper, who was also a talented artist, began selling her hand-painted scarves on commission for hundreds of dollars each.

Godfrey says that Camp $tart-Up can also affect the girls' educational choices.

The camp is priced at $1,600, including lodging, meals and use of recreational facilities. Scholarships are available, underwritten by organizations such as the Girl Scouts and companies such as Home Depot and Charles Schwab.

Four years ago, a group of businesswomen that included the executive director of the Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, which has its headquarters in Phoenix, devised another program for girls, focused primarily on connecting them with women mentors from the business world. The result was Camp CEO, a weeklong residential program that teaches girls entrepreneurship skills and exposes them to top-flight businesswomen. Since its inception, the program has spread to other Girl Scout councils.

The Arizona Camp CEO will be July 23 to 29 at Willow Springs Center, a 190-acre Girl Scout camp near Prescott. There is room for 30 ninth- to 12th-graders, who must be Scouts but don't have to live in Arizona. The cost is $200, including accommodations, meals, workshops and activities.

The Girl Scout organization has become increasingly involved in training young women to be financially aware and savvy about the working world because it promotes independence, a Scouting core value. Nowadays girls earn badges for career planning and community service. Camp CEO takes the training one more step.

I earned a sewing badge when I was a Scout. But the world has changed, which is why I've come to believe that career planning badges and entrepreneurship camps make more sense for girls than basting and bobbins.

Camp Entrepreneur, Small Business Development Center, University Center, 12000 Alumni Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32224; telephone (904) 620-2428, fax (904) 620-2567, Internet http://www.sbdc.unf.edu. Also, the National Education Center for Women in Business, Seton Hill College, Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg, PA 15601; tel. (724) 830-4625, Internet http://www.e-magnify.com.

Camp $tart-Up, Independent Means Inc., 126 Powers Ave., Santa Barbara, CA 93103; tel. (800) 350-1816 or (805) 965-0475, fax (805) 965-3148, Internet http://www.independentmeans.com.

Camp CEO at Willow Springs Program Center, Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council Inc., 119 E. Coronado Road, Phoenix, AZ 85004; tel. (602) 253-6359, fax (602) 252-1159, Internet http://www.acpgsc.org/campceo.

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