COMMENTARY: Rosie's Girls teaches this mom how much young girls really can do

Three-week camp focuses on STEM careers

CINCINNATI – As parents of two daughters, my husband and I have always told our girls they are capable of anything – even going to the bathroom standing up if they practice.

But as a mom, I confess I've been nervous each time one of my babies has headed down to my husband's basement workshop to sweat alongside him using saws, chisels and hand planes to build a toy, make a picture frame or help complete a piece of furniture.

A visit to the Rosie's Girls Program showed me just how silly I've been. Rosie's Girls is the YWCA of Greater Cincinnati 's three-week summer program for girls between the ages of 11 and 13, and this summer's graduation ceremony is July 25.

A few days before graduation, I saw toolboxes the girls in the program made – measuring and cutting every piece on their own.

 

I saw jewelry stands they welded together and later spray-painted.

 

And I got to watch one of the coolest moments of the camp – when the girls found out if the lamps they built and wired lit up when they were plugged into switches and receptacles that the girls also wired on their own.

 

Don't get me wrong. The 24 girls in the camp weren't set loose at Woodward Career and Technical High School with table saws and blowtorches and told to go for it.

The camp has a staff of instructors, primarily women, who know their trades. When I visited camp, I saw a carpenter apprentice from Messer Construction who was teaching 12 girls how to measure and cut pieces for picnic tables they were building while camp counselors supervised smaller groups at each workbench.

 

In another room, a team of women from Denier Electric taught the other 12 girls at the camp how to wire their lamps.

 

The girls also learned about plumbing, tiling, concrete, engineering, architecture, surveying and computer technology, among other skills.

Over the years, girls have banged their thumbs with hammers and have gotten scrapes from the overzealous use of sandpaper. But Rosie's Girls has never had a major injury or accident, said Camp Director Rhonda Lindon-Hammon, who has overseen the camp since it started here seven years ago.

The camp is named after "Rosie the Riveter," the World War II era character who symbolized the strength of women who worked in defense plants while the men were at war.

The idea is to introduce girls to so-called STEM-related careers – jobs that require strong math, science and technology skills. Along the way, the camp aims to build self-esteem and confidence and teach the girls the cooperation and leadership skills they'll need for life.

I saw that first-hand, too.

I watched as 13-year-old Michelle Daniels finished wiring the lamp base she had built in carpentry class and painted in art class.

With shades they had decorated on top and light bulbs in place, Michelle and the other girls in her group carried their lamps over to the light switches and receptacles they had wired earlier.

Michelle plugged in the lamp, flipped the switch, and her face lit up almost brighter than the lamp itself. She immediately turned and gave a high-five to the girl beside her, one of the many friends she has made at Rosie's Girls.

 

"I really, really like the camp," Michelle told me later.

Michelle is good at math and science and wants to be a nurse like her mom, or maybe even a doctor, she said. Still, she surprised herself with how good she was at welding and that she could make a lamp on her own.

"Really I can do anything that anyone else can do," she said. "I could do something a grown man could do right now."

Macarena DeSantiago was so confident after she learned about plumbing at Rosie's Girls that she asked her mom if she could fix the toilet at their home in West Chester.

"The water kept running so I told my mom we needed to change the flapper," said Macarena, who is 12. "We went to the store and bought a flapper, and I fixed the toilet in like two minutes."

 

At first Macarena wasn't sure she had done it right.

But her mom walked up to her later and told her, "You know you fixed the toilet, right?" she said.

As a bonus, she impressed her mom and older sister, who told her she was "adorable" and asked, "how can you do that?"

I asked Macarena how she felt, being able to fix a toilet all on her own.

"I feel like Batman," she said with a broad smile.

And why not?

Batman doesn't have super powers in the comic books or movies. He's a smart guy who uses science and technology to solve problems, fix things and fight crime. (Batman also has a lot of money, but you get the point.)

At the Rosie's Girls program, the girls learn that they can do more than they ever thought they could.

And, in some cases, it's more than their moms ever thought they could, too.

Just please don't tell my husband he was right about our daughters and his

workshop.

For more information about Rosie's Girls, visit the YWCA Greater Cincinnati website.

For more stories by Lucy May, go to www.wcpo.com/may . Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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