Our Campers are Building What?!
By Nell Carpenter, Rosie’s Girls Coordinator
This past summer, I received a text from a Rosie’s Girls instructor one Thursday morning asking, “Where’s the hardware for the picnic table? We’re doing it!” The picnic table she was referring to was, last I had seen, a pile of lumber in the back of the shop that was an optional group project if we had time that week of Rosie’s Girls Build. When the group hadn’t started by Wednesday, I assumed there wouldn’t be enough time to construct the table by Friday and had not picked up the hardware needed for the project. I assumed very wrong.
The hardware delivery was met by eager but careful hands that had just pre-cut and pre-drilled the entire picnic table during the morning shop session. Plied with all that they needed to finish the table, they scarfed down pb&j’s and returned to their part of the project. Like a professional sports team, each camper knew their role; one held the level, one held the wood in place, and one screwed the bolts in place, while the same arrangement formed and operated across the table for the other half.
After only about 8 hours in the shop, our campers flipped over the finished table. While our instructors crossed their fingers that it would sit level on the floor, campers sat down and demonstrated that it was perfectly level with no wobble at all (as they knew it would be). Then, with little hesitation, they each grabbed a sander and polished their strong, sturdy, and collectively built table to Rosie’s Girls perfection – and then squeezed onto it for a proud selfie.
Society underestimates young people and especially young girls – even I did! However, throughout this past summer I’ve witnessed what happens when you empower and trust young people in ways they’ve never been before, like giving a girl a power tool and letting her make whatever she wants with it.
The picnic table represents more than just hard work in the shop: it represents a week of coming together around group discussions about societal pressures, identity, and acceptance, a week of focusing on each other’s inner qualities rather than outer qualities, a week of dance parties and goofy games, a week of stepping into your challenge zone and being cheered on the whole time. Rosie’s Girls is where young people construct picnic tables after being introduced to power tools only 3 days earlier and where young people are empowered on the basis of their own strength, intelligence, and flair.
Empowerment is a hard concept to explain without context or stories. And, more importantly, we don’t always get the memo that becoming empowered often requires overcoming assumptions, frustration, adversity, or fear. Rosie’s Girls has embodied empowerment for the past 2 decades, supporting over 1,000 young people through challenging life circumstances, complicated blueprints, and gender bias. We are so excited to see what next year’s campers will accomplish!