Wonder Girls camp emboldens youngsters

Thirteen-year-old Ema Helms is enjoying the feeling of self-empowerment she’s getting from the Wonder Girls Camp, organized by Crisis Center of West Texas.

The week-long camp is being held at Crossroads Church this year. Helms was one of the original group of girls participating in the camp, aimed at girls entering grades five through eight.

Helms said she likes that the camp is all about girls.

“And it just makes us feel better about ourselves,” Helms said Tuesday.

She added that she has enjoyed all the activities, plus the “social building,” or building each other up, that goes on.

Aliya Lopes, 13, has been attending Wonder Girls since 2018.

Lopes said she likes that the camp isn’t restrictive and it has lifted her self-esteem.

“We don’t get to do whatever we want, but we get to do a lot of stuff. It’s not like we’re staying here just so our parents don’t have to watch us for a couple of hours. It’s actually fun. It’s not like school. I feel like I’m a lot nicer than I was. I used to be rude. It helped me not be so alone during the summer,” she said.

This is the first time Abagail Prucka, Haylea Graves, and Aviyah Ramos, all 10, and Bethany Johnston, 9 (she turns 10 on Thursday), have attended Wonder Girls.

“I just really wanted to learn about some stuff about girl power and our environment to make it better,” Prucka said.

Johnston said her mom found the camp online.

“I really like science, so I figured I’d try it and it’s really fun. I made a lot of new friends,” Johnston said.

Elizabeth Teixeira, prevention services director with Crisis Center of West Texas, said including this year, this is the fifth time the camp has been held. It was virtual last year due to the pandemic. Masks are encouraged this year.

They are hoping to have more girls in future years, but they were trying to social distance as much as possible this year.

“Crossroads was very kind to accommodate us with all the different precautions that the community is taking and it gives us a lot of space to spread out,” Teixeira said.
She added that the camp got a surprisingly positive response from the community.

“… The camp filled up before the deadline and we unfortunately, in order to distance, had to turn some folks away. People were ready to get back out there and have their kids experience some fun this summer with their peers,” Teixeira said.

THINK is spearheading all the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming as they have done since the camp began.

“They come in and do engineering projects, science projects, craft-type projects with the girls to really get them excited about all things STEM,” Teixeira said. “That’s one component of the camp. We also bring in people from different sectors of the fitness industry, so yesterday we had yoga. Today, we have CrossFit. We’ll also have Zumba and kickboxing just to get their bodies feeling strong. We’re doing an Olympics on Thursday with the girls, so … we have the mind with STEM and then the body,” Teixeira added.

“Then we also do all of our Crisis Center type programming … so we’re taking them through part of our healthy relationships programming, talking about things like healthy communication, self-esteem, stereotypes; things like that. We like to see that as mind, body and soul being nurtured in different ways at this camp,” she said.

She noted that they are glad to be able to offer Wonder Girls in person.

“This spring we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to find both the personnel and the space to do that, but we’ve had a lot of support for the camp in the community and it’s nice to get back together in person. My team did a wonderful job last year with the virtual programming, but it’s just not the same, especially for the girls. I think getting up and out and among people their own age has been really positive for them,” Teixeira said.

She added that part of what makes the camp run is the amazing volunteers.

“We have some great team leaders who are really inspiring to the girls. We have some great folks joining us for career day on Thursday,” she said. “We just really want to inspire the girls and it’s great to see the community coming together to help us do that.”