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Fifth-grade girls focus on teamwork, self-esteem

January 25, 2001|By KELLY RAUSCH, Staff Writer

JULIAN — Question: What's the best way to move 15 10-year-old girls from one side of the room to the other in 15 minutes without any body parts touching the floor in between?

Answer: Let them do it themselves.

After some trial and error, the girls got themselves across using a yellow rope, two skateboards and teamwork.

"We do this activity to build self-esteem and to work together as a group," said Maggie Vizcarra, one of the activity's leaders and a student assistant representative with Imperial County Office of Education.

Teamwork and self-esteem are just two of the things these girls learned during their two-day stay in the mountains near Julian this week.

The camp, one of several during the year, is organized by ICOE. Through a grant from the Office of Criminal Justice Planning, the camp aims to teach Imperial Valley fifth-grade girls about chemical dependency, family systems, tobacco and feelings.

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Presenters from ICOE, AmeriCorps and Calexico High School's Friday Night Live club give the girls information in ways they'll find interesting and understand, said Shelley Ziegler, a prevention specialist with ICOE.

"We're doing it on a fifth-grade level. We're using puppets, putting on skits and playing games," Ziegler said.

The two-day camp is not only about information presented in workshops. By participating, the girls are building "a sense of community, not just in their own town but in the whole county," Ziegler said.

When asked if she was making any new friends on her first day at the camp, Tabitha Morales, a fifth-grader at Brawley's Miguel Hidalgo School, said she "made a bunch of them already."

"I came here because they picked me in my classroom and because I want to get a chance to meet other girls," Tabitha said.

Many of the students from Miguel Hidalgo School, Winterhaven's San Pasqual Elementary, Heber Elementary and Calexico's Kennedy Gardens School had never experienced life as it is at the camp.

"For some it's their first time out of the Valley. For some it's their first time seeing snow," Ziegler said.

"It's a very healthy environment for the girls to be in," Ziegler said, pointing out the girls take nature hikes and are served organic and vegetarian meals while at Camp Stevens.

Unlike other ICOE camps in which both boys and girls are present, the girl-only camp is "a lot quieter," said Gabriel Aguirre, a prevention specialist with ICOE.

"There's less tension and fighting. The kids aren't trying to impress each other," Aguirre said.

"The reason we invite male presenters is to have someone the girls can view as positive male role models," Aguirre said.

Having Calexico High Friday Night Live club members give presentations and perform skits brings a different dimension to the camp.

"Kids will always listen to adults, but high school kids are always people they look up to. They're closer to their peer group," Aguirre said.

Raul Avila, a junior at Calexico High and FNL club member, was happy to take part in the camp.

"I make a good role model for little kids. Little kids are going to look up to you, but older ones won't," Raul said.

In his second year with FNL, Raul said he joined in part because he wanted to help children.

"Kids are, like, our future," Raul said.

"You've got to teach them right from wrong if they're going to learn," he added.

Already, it seems, these girls are learning a lot.

"I was surprised when some of them answered tough questions correctly and maturely," Raul said.

"It's interesting and fun. I get to see what girls think about," Raul said with a laugh.

Staff Writer Kelly Rausch can be reached at 337-3442.

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