August 2, 2008

Girl Power

By Howard Weiss-Tisman, Brattleboro Reformer, Vt.

Aug. 2--BRATTLEBORO -- There is a corner at Morningside Shelter that, up until a few weeks ago, was used for a place to store piles of toys and clothes that were donated.

On Friday, a client sat at a desk there and worked on a computer.

On the wall to the right there were individual mailboxes and in front of her hung a corkboard.

The desk, corkboard and mailboxes were all built by a group of teenage girls who worked together for three weeks this summer in the Rosie's Girls Summer Program.

Rosie's Girls introduces girls in grades six through eight to skills and experiences they might not otherwise be exposed to.

Along with the carpentry, the girls this summer spent time white-water rafting, working in auto mechanics and learning about forestry.

"I never knew about rabbits and stuff," said Ali Fielding, 12, explaining the routed grooves she learned how to make in wood cabinetry. "It was fun and cool to build stuff. It was not as hard as it looks."

Rosie's Girls started in Northern Vermont in 1987 and was held in Brattleboro for the first time last year.

The three-week summer program is now held all over the country.

"Everything the girls do teaches them about teamwork," said Diane Heileman, a technology specialist at the Windham Regional Career Center who helped bring the program to Brattleboro. "Self esteem is a big part of this and the girls come out at the end doing a lot of things

they didn't think they could do."

The classes are held at the career center and the campers do some carpentry every day.

In the afternoons they travel around the area to take part in other activities, with the focus always on working well as a team.

Community service is also an important part of the program, Heileman said, and this year the group contacted Morningside Shelter.

Shelter director Paul Capcara met with his staff and decided that the messy corner that was used for storage would get more use with a new desk and mailboxes.

When the girls came to the shelter to install the equipment he was amazed at how well all the pieces fit.

"We were impressed by the very high quality of carpentry," Capcara said. "We've seen a real increase in the number of homeless residents, so we're struggling to find new ways to utilize all available space in the most efficient manner."

Jenna Martin, 12, had some friends who were planning to go to the camp this past summer and so she decided to try it out.

She had not done much woodworking but decided to give it a shot.

When the group came together at Morningside to install the pieces, Jenna said she was surprised to see how all of the parts the groups completed working on their own fit together to form the office set.

"I decided to take a chance and it was fun," she said. "It was great opportunity to try new jobs."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at [email protected] or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.


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